Fundamental Theorem of Calculus: A Principle That Saves Your Life

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (FTC) is a critical principle in calculus that connects the concepts of differentiation and integration. This theorem has two main parts, each highlighting a different aspect of this connection:

Fundamental Theorem of Calculus: A Principle That Saves Your Life

Part 1 of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

  • Statement: If a function \( f \) is continuous on a closed interval \([a, b]\) and \( F \) is an antiderivative of \( f \) on \([a, b]\), then:
    \( \int_{a}^{b} f(x) \, dx = F(b) – F(a) \)
  • Meaning: This part essentially says that the definite integral of a function \( f \) over an interval \([a, b]\) can be computed by finding the difference in the values of any antiderivative \( F \) of \( f \) at the endpoints of the interval.
  • Example: If \( F'(x) = f(x) \), then the area under the curve of \( f \) from \( a \) to \( b \) is \( F(b) – F(a) \).

Part 2 of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

  • Statement: If \( f \) is a continuous function defined on an interval containing \( a \), and \( F \) is defined by the integral accumulation function:
    \( F(x) = \int_{a}^{x} f(t) \, dt \)
    then \( F \) is continuous on this interval, differentiable on the interior of the interval, and \( F'(x) = f(x) \) for all \( x \) in the interval.
  • Meaning: This part tells us that the derivative of the integral accumulation function \( F \) is the original function \( f \). It establishes the exact reverse process of differentiation.
  • Example: If you have a function \( F(x) \) defined as the integral of \( f \) from \( a \) to \( x \), then differentiating \( F(x) \) gets you back to \( f(x) \).


  • Bridging Two Main Concepts: The FTC beautifully links the area problem (integration) and the tangent problem (differentiation), which are central to calculus.
  • Practical Implications: This theorem allows for the computation of definite integrals without computing limits of sums, simplifying calculations significantly. It also aids in understanding the behavior of accumulative quantities in various fields like physics, engineering, and economics.


  • Physics: Used in motion analysis, where the integral of velocity gives displacement, and the derivative of displacement gives velocity.
  • Engineering: Helps in understanding and calculating quantities like work, energy, and fluid flow.
  • Economics: Applied in calculating accumulated growth, costs, or investments over time.

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is truly foundational in mathematics, forming the backbone of integral and differential calculus and enabling a deep understanding of the relationship between rates of change and accumulation.

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