# Gilbert Strang: Linear Algebra vs Calculus | Summary and Q&A

345.1K views
November 26, 2019
by
Lex Fridman
Gilbert Strang: Linear Algebra vs Calculus

## Summary

In this video, the guest discusses the concept of planes and multidimensional spaces in mathematics. They explain that while calculus came earlier and is more commonly taught, linear algebra should have come first as it deals with flat surfaces and is simpler to understand. The guest also emphasizes that linear algebra allows for working with higher dimensions without any complications.

### Q: Why does the guest believe that linear algebra should have come before calculus?

The guest explains that linear algebra deals with flat surfaces and has no complications related to curves or bending, unlike calculus. They also mention that linear algebra is simpler to understand as it focuses on flat things.

### Q: Is linear algebra taught before calculus in High School and College?

No, calculus is usually taught before linear algebra. In High School classes, calculus is typically the introductory math course, and in College, it is often the first math course for freshmen. The guest expresses their preference for linear algebra to be taught first, as it is simpler and focuses on flat surfaces.

### Q: Why does the guest think linear algebra is simpler than calculus?

According to the guest, linear algebra is simpler because it deals with flat surfaces. Unlike calculus, which involves curves and curved surfaces, linear algebra surfaces remain flat. This lack of bending or curving makes linear algebra easier to grasp and understand.

### Q: How many dimensions are typically explored in calculus and linear algebra?

Calculus primarily deals with one dimension and eventually expands to include multivariate aspects, which essentially means two dimensions. On the other hand, linear algebra allows for working with multiple dimensions, such as 10 dimensions, without any complications.

### Q: Why does it feel scary to go beyond two dimensions?

The guest explains that the fear associated with going beyond two dimensions is due to the misconception that dimensions beyond two become dangerous or complicated. However, since linear algebra deals with flat surfaces, there is no risk involved, and calculations can be done without any difficulties.

### Q: Why do you think calculus is taught before linear algebra?

The guest believes that calculus is taught first due to historical reasons, as Newton and Leibniz were the pioneers in understanding the key ideas of calculus. Additionally, calculus also has more applications in various fields, which might contribute to its prioritization in the curriculum.

### Q: Are there any benefits to learning linear algebra before calculus?

Yes, learning linear algebra before calculus can provide a solid foundation for understanding mathematical concepts. Linear algebra focuses on flat surfaces and simpler ideas, making it easier to comprehend. This understanding can then be applied to calculus and enhance learning in that area as well.

### Q: How does linear algebra expand beyond flat surfaces?

While linear algebra starts with flat surfaces, it allows for the exploration of higher dimensions without any complications. This means that linear algebra allows for the study and manipulation of objects in spaces with more than three dimensions, which can be incredibly useful in various mathematical and scientific fields.

### Q: Is there a particular reason calculus is deemed more intuitive than linear algebra?

The guest explains that calculus might be considered more intuitive than linear algebra due to its historical development and the way it is taught in educational institutions. Calculus has been taught for a longer time and has practical applications that are easier to visualize, which might contribute to its perceived intuitiveness.

### Q: What are the key differences between linear algebra and calculus?

Linear algebra mainly deals with flat surfaces and simpler concepts, focusing on multidimensional spaces, whereas calculus involves curves, bending, and more complex surfaces. Linear algebra is a starting point to understand higher dimensions, while calculus explores the mathematics of change and motion.

## Takeaways

In summary, the guest argues that linear algebra should have been taught before calculus because of its simplicity and focus on flat surfaces. While calculus is more commonly taught and perceived as more intuitive, linear algebra allows for the exploration of higher dimensions without complications. Understanding linear algebra can provide a solid foundation for mathematical comprehension and has practical applications in various fields.