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What’s higher than calculus?

Calculus is considered one of the most advanced areas of mathematics taught in high school and college. It builds on concepts from algebra, geometry, and trigonometry and has applications across science, engineering, economics, and more. Many students wonder what, if anything, comes after learning calculus.

Linear Algebra

One subject that is considered more advanced than calculus is linear algebra. While calculus focuses on rates of change and curves, linear algebra deals with linear equations and their representations through matrices and vector spaces. Some key topics in linear algebra include:

  • Matrices – Rectangular arrays of numbers that can be manipulated using certain rules
  • Vector spaces – Collections of vectors that can be added together and multiplied by scalars
  • Linear transformations – Functions that map vectors in one vector space to vectors in another vector space
  • Eigenvalues and eigenvectors – Special values and vectors that reveal important properties of linear transformations

Linear algebra has applications in computer graphics, cryptography, economics, engineering, machine learning, and physics. Many math and science programs require students to take linear algebra after completing the calculus sequence.

Abstract Algebra

Abstract algebra, also called modern algebra, is another field that advances beyond calculus. It studies algebraic structures with operations that satisfy certain rules. Some key topics include:

  • Groups – Sets with an associative binary operation where every element has an inverse
  • Rings – Sets where addition and multiplication are defined and follow certain rules
  • Fields – Rings where division is defined for non-zero elements
  • Galois theory – Connects field theory and group theory to study polynomial equations

Abstract algebra provides a framework for studying and classifying mathematical objects by their algebraic properties. It has applications in physics, coding theory, and geometry. Taking abstract algebra requires mathematical maturity gained from studying calculus and linear algebra.

Real Analysis

Real analysis focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of calculus using the language of sets, sequences, series, limits, continuity, and differentiation. Some key topics include:

  • Construction of the real number system using set theory
  • Properties of sequences and series of real numbers
  • Rigorous definitions for limits, continuity, and differentiation
  • Sequences and series of functions
  • Integration theory
  • Convergence of functions

Real analysis provides precise, mathematical reasoning behind the rules and formulas learned in calculus. It is an important subject for mathematics majors and helps prepare students for advanced theoretical mathematics. Real analysis requires a deep understanding of proof techniques.

Complex Analysis

Complex analysis extends calculus into the complex number system. The key topics include:

  • Complex functions defined over the complex plane
  • Derivatives and integrals of complex functions
  • Analytic functions
  • Contour integration
  • Conformal mappings
  • Taylor and Laurent series
  • Residue theorem and applications

Complex analysis is important in many areas of mathematics and physics, including fluid dynamics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. It combines techniques from calculus and algebra to gain insights not apparent when working with real numbers alone.

Differential Equations

Differential equations involve calculus concepts and are widely used in science and engineering. Some key topics include:

  • First-order differential equations
  • Higher-order linear differential equations
  • Systems of differential equations
  • Numerical methods for solving differential equations
  • Partial differential equations
  • Applications to dynamics, electricity, chemistry, biology, etc.

Many physical phenomena can be modeled using differential equations. Studying them after calculus allows students to further understand these models and solve more advanced problems.


Topology is the study of properties of geometric objects that remain unchanged under continuous deformations. Some key topics include:

  • Metric spaces
  • Continuity and homeomorphisms
  • Connectedness
  • Compactness
  • Manifolds
  • Fixed point theorems

Topology has applications in physics, computer science, data analysis, and engineering. It takes concepts from calculus and real analysis and studies their abstract topological properties rather than exact numerical attributes.

Number Theory

Number theory deals with properties of integers. Some key topics include:

  • Divisibility and factorization of integers
  • Congruences
  • Linear and quadratic equations over integers
  • Primes and problems like the Goldbach conjecture
  • Cryptography

Number theory builds on an understanding of integers and basic proof techniques. Applications are found in cryptography, computer science, and abstract algebra. Number theory provides insight into mathematical structures and patterns.


While calculus represents an advanced high point in math education, there are many subjects that take mathematics to an even higher level. Linear algebra, abstract algebra, real analysis, complex analysis, differential equations, topology, and number theory build on calculus foundations to delve deeper into theoretical mathematics and its applications. Broadening one’s mathematical knowledge beyond calculus opens up new career opportunities and abilities to understand advanced concepts across the sciences, economics, computing, and engineering.