Algebra vs. Calculus: What Are The Differences?

Algebra vs. Calculus: What Are The Differences
Algebra vs. Calculus: What Are The Differences

Mathematics is one of the most beautiful subjects and has its place in everyday life. We use maths to solve our problems systematically. Mathematics has branches like Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Geometry. Each branch has its importance and different applications.

In addition to being beautiful, math can also be tricky, especially when it comes to algebra and calculus. The two are often lumped together as “higher-level math,” but really, they have very distinct differences.

How is calculus different from algebra? Calculus primarily focuses on the rate of change of functions, whereas algebra focuses on solving equations. Calculus mainly includes finding the rate of change of a function and integration, meaning finding the area under a function curve. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the differences between algebra and calculus so that you can better understand which one you need to know for your math class or career.

If you are interested in learning Calculus, I encourage you to read this article where I shared the 9 best YouTube channels to learn calculus.

Algebra vs. Calculus – An Overview

Algebra and calculus are two of the most fundamental branches of mathematics. Both are used extensively in a variety of fields, from engineering to physics to economics.

But what exactly is the difference between algebra and calculus?

What Is Algebra?

Algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with equations and variables. Generally, it is used to solve equations using a set of rules and operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square roots, and exponents.

Algebra involves finding solutions to equations, applying transformations to functions, determining patterns within sequences of numbers, and more.

We apply algebraic thinking in many everyday activities, such as budgeting, finding the best route while driving, or deciding how many cans of paint we need to buy for a wall.

We also use Algebra when solving problems such as figuring out how much money you will save by buying items on sale or calculating how many hours you need to work to pay off your credit card debt.

What Is Calculus?

Calculus is also a branch of mathematics, but it deals with the study of change, particularly rates of change across time or space. This includes finding derivatives (the rate at which something changes) and integrals (the total value or area under a graph) through various methods such as differentiation or integration.

Calculus is the study of change and motion. We generally use Calculus to calculate things like speed or acceleration over time. It involves taking derivatives (the rate of change) of a function in order to determine its behavior at different points in time or space.

For example, if you wanted to figure out the speed at which a person was running at any given moment while running around a track in one-minute intervals, calculus would be the tool you need.

Calculus is used widely in fields such as physics, engineering, economics, and biology for analyzing motion or calculating acceleration. It can also be used in economics to calculate supply & demand curves or analyze consumer behavior.

Differences Between Algebra And Calculus

The main difference between algebra and calculus is that algebra focuses on manipulating variables while calculus focuses on understanding how those variables change over time. In other words, algebra deals with static objects (numbers), while calculus deals with dynamic objects (rates).

To illustrate this further, let’s take an example from physics: if you wanted to calculate the velocity at which an object moves along a curved line using algebra, you would use constants like speed; however, if you wanted to calculate the same thing using calculus you would use derivatives like acceleration since it changes dynamically over time instead of being static like speed.

Another key difference is that algebra typically uses equations, while calculus uses functions (which are often represented by graphs). This makes it easier for scientists and mathematicians to visualize how something changes over time without having to solve complicated equations every step along the way.

Calculus also has applications in computing, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which means it can be used for things like facial recognition technology or voice control systems. AI requires algorithms that can identify patterns and make predictions based on past data, which can be done using calculus.

Snapshot of The Differences Between Algebra and Calculus

Both algebra and calculus are important tools for understanding our world. Whether it is shopping smarter or predicting trends with AI, that’s why I believe understanding the difference between algebra and calculus is key.

Algebra focuses on manipulating numbers, while calculus focuses on understanding how those numbers change over time. While both branches provide powerful tools for studying mathematics they serve very different purposes and should not be confused with each other.

The table below shows a snapshot of the differences between Algebra and Calculus.

Characteristics Algebra Calculus
DefinitionAlgebra is a branch of mathematics that typically uses mathematical statements to represent relationships between various things, such as a relationship between the supply of an object and its price (Source: NYU Wagner)Calculus is a branch of mathematics that focuses on understanding how those numbers change over time.
OriginMuhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi is a famous mathematician known for revolutionizing algebra and arithmetic as the “father of algebra.” His book, al-Kitāb al-mukhtasar fīhisāb al-jabr wal-muqābala, is where we get the word “algebra” (from “al-jabr” or “balancing”).“Calculus” originated from Latin, meaning “pebble,” a small stone used for counting, like the stones on an abacus.
ObjectiveAlgebra is mainly used for solving equations.Calculus is divided into differentiation and integration.
Usages – Find the value of a function at a particular point
–  Find the slope of a line
–  Find the average rate of change between two points
– Find the height of a function at a certain point
– Find the direction of motion along a line
– Find the limit of a function as x approaches a certain point.
– Find the slope of a curve
– Find the instantaneous rate of change at a point
– Find the maximum height on an interval.
– Find the direction of motion along any curve.
The Table Displays a Snapshot Of The Differences Between Algebra and Calculus

Should You Learn Calculus or Algebra First?

Generally, students learn algebra first and then Calculus because algebra is one of the essential foundations of calculus. I believe that mastering algebra is critical to mastering calculus.

At an advanced level, calculus and algebra become closely related as you will constantly use algebra while doing calculus. Calculus helps you understand some topics in algebra better, and algebra will be necessary for doing calculus.

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In Conclusion

Algebra and calculus are two separate branches of mathematics that are often confused with one another, but they actually have quite different applications.

Algebra is an essential tool for solving equations using variables, while calculus allows us to calculate the rate of change over time in order to make predictions about future behavior.

If you are a high-school student just starting out in your math journey, I believe it is important to understand these basic differences so you can choose which field they want to pursue further down the road.


I am Altiné. I am the guy behind When I am not teaching math, you can find me reading, running, biking, or doing anything that allows me to enjoy nature's beauty. I hope you find what you are looking for while visiting

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