Mathematics, and in particular calculus, is treated as arcane knowledge known only to the very smart or professional mathematicians, and opaque/useless to everyone else.

In most engineering courses, differential and integral calculus is the opposite of arcane: to the contrary, it is usually only the beginning of a 5-year-long journey to ''much'' more advanced mathematical concepts such as ordinary and partial differential equations, vector calculus and complex analysis, and these topics are in turn the base of branches of science such as statistics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, cosmology, chemistry and signal analysis. However, WritersCannotDoMath. Most writers are people who felt much more attracted to warm, flexible, humane, passionate arts and human studies rather than cold, hard, mechanical and stoic exact science. Other writers had the misfortune of having had bad math teachers who left them hating exact sciences forever, others just plain fail at handling higher mathematics. Whatever the reason, this translates to most writers having made sure to take as little math in basic school as possible. Per the standard American high school curriculum, mathematics become an optional subject around the time when when calculus is taught, so for anyone who [[EveryoneHatesMathematics quit the subject at the first opportunity]], it's simply the hardest topic [[SmallReferencePools they're familiar with]].

Because of this, in media works "calculus" is often used as shorthand for "brain-hurty smart people stuff." This is somewhat of an exaggeration--beginning calculus is not particularly difficult as mathematics goes, and is the foundation for much of the true higher maths and physics. And everyone's brains use the processes represented by calculus in their everyday lives (the derivative is the rate of growth or decrease, the integral is the cumulative total); what makes it difficult is substituting number-crunching for intuition. However, there are different kinds of intelligence, and mathematics that seems simple to one person can be entirely opaque to another.

Compare EEqualsMCHammer, which is when mathematical equations (often gibberish) are displayed to imply that math is occurring, and MouthfulOfPi, where brilliant mathematicians know pi to a ridiculous number of places. See also FormulaicMagic.




[[folder: Anime And Manga ]]

* Inverted in the ''Manga/ItazuraNaKiss'' episode, ''"The Crucial Moment! Class F's Winter Battle"'', where every high school student tutored by Irie over a very short time period, even the usually dimwitted Kotoko, manages to pass their Calculus section of the college entrance exam. Everyone, save Kinnosuke, who was too proud to get tutored.


[[folder: Comics ]]

* In the English language version of ''Franchise/{{Tintin}}'', we have Professor Calculus, apparently named so to indicate just how brilliant he is, as the direct translation "Professor Sunflower" just wouldn't have the same ring.


[[folder: Jokes ]]

* Joke: Two professors are arguing in a restaurant about whether calculus was obscure or well-known. The "obscure" professor went to the men's room. The "well-known" professor asks the waitress to help him play a joke on him -- when he came back, he would call her over, and ask her a question, and she should answer "one half x squared." He comes back, the professor asks him if the waitress knowing calculus would prove it, and the "obscure" professor agrees. He calls over the waitress and asks for the anti-derivative of "x". She answers, "one half x squared -- ''plus a constant.''" [[note]]That is, the "well-known" professor ''got it wrong,'' and the waitress ''corrected'' the answer he told her to give! (For those of you who have not taken calculus -- it is remarkably easy to forget the constant. Just about everyone who has has gotten back a test where all the problems lost one point for forgetting it, and it is completely plausible that the professor forgot.)[[/note]]


[[folder: Literature ]]

* In Creator/DavidBrin's ''Literature/{{Uplift}}'' series practically all alien races consider any human mathematics more complex than arithmetic to be "arcane wolfling superstitions", even the Tymbrimi-created AI on the ''Streaker'' says so. Since they were all uplifted from the pre-stone age to interstellar tech by an older race they can simply use computers to brute-force any difficult mathematical problems.
* Justified in Creator/NealStephenson's ''Literature/TheBaroqueCycle'' -- it takes place somewhere around the 18th century, when calculus ''was'' arcane knowledge and the most advanced topic in mathematics. As it actually happened, two of the main characters[[note]]Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, who ''did'' independently invent calculus in RealLife[[/note]] are actively engaged in inventing it separately.
* In ''Literature/{{Relativity}},'' this trope is averted: Yes, technically, Michael (college student) is helping Kelly (platonic friend, another college student) with calculus. But rather than just say "he's helping her with calculus," the narrative specifically mentions that he is helping her find the line integral of a vector field.
* Alan Sokal's famous StealthParody paper ''Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity'' makes a RunningGag about nonlinear mathematics showing the way to a new postmodern consciousness. A footnote commenting on a rather confused passage by Robert Markey incorrectly describes complex number theory as "a new and still quite speculative branch of mathematical physics," while other footnotes buffoonishly read a "pro-nuclear-energy worldview" into a book on [[ Radon measures]] and liberal social attitudes into the‎ equality and choice axioms of [[ Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory]].
%%* In a Polish PostApocalyptic novel, the hideout of a group of surviving intellectuals is guarded by a door with a code-lock. To pass, one had to enter a solution to a simple integral.


[[folder: Live Action Television ]]

* ''Series/TheBigBangTheory''. Four of the five main characters know advanced physics, and the math behind it. But most non-scientists on the show seem to have not even gotten to linear algebra.
** Which makes sense, since ''linear'' algebra is traditionally learned after calculus and differential equations. Calculus would be preceded by college algebra and trigonometry, commonly taught as "precalculus."
* One of the things that, canonically, [[OverrankedSoldier Chief Engineer Commander Tucker]] cannot do in ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise''.
** A case of WritersCannotDoMath, as a lack of knowledge of calculus would make Tucker [[InformedAbility a very poor engineer]].
** A couple of centuries thence, even ten-year-old children are expected to have a basic knowledge of calculus, as an episode of ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' shows.
* ''Series/FamilyMatters'' also does this in one episode, where Laura complains about how difficult her calculus test was. And Urkel, of course, rants about how easy calculus is.


[[folder: Music ]]

* From the song "White and Nerdy", by Music/WeirdAlYankovic: "I do vector calculus, just for fun."
** Also, "Yo, I know pi to a thousand places!"
** During Weird Al's turn as Sir Creator/IsaacNewton on ''WebVideo/EpicRapBattlesOfHistory'', he stumps Series/{{Bill Nye|TheScienceGuy}} with the question "The integral sec y dy from zero to one-sixth of pi is log to base e of the square root of three times the sixty-fourth power of [[BigWhat WHAT?]]" [[note]]The answer, it turns out, is anything that qualifies as the 64th root of 1. UsefulNotes/{{Neil deGrasse Tyson}}'s answer of choice is "i".[[/note]]


[[folder: Table Top Games ]]

* ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}'' supplement ''Acute Paranoia''. In a section on mathematics tests, calculus is given as an example of "Very Complex Mathematics". The only category higher than that is "Impossible Mathematics", such as "What is the final digit of pi?"


[[folder: Theatre ]]

* The Major General in ''Theatre/ThePiratesOfPenzance'' cites calculus as part of his educated background in his opening song.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* In ''Franchise/MassEffect'', the biologist Mordin Solus uses a species' ability to preform calculus as a rule for ethical experimentation. Any species that can is off limits.


[[folder: Webcomics ]]

* In ''Webcomic/QuestionableContent'', while Raven is working out the topology of Marten's penis and jeans on the board, Faye mutters "is that calculus?"
* ''"[[ Look lively, people! Spot calculus check!]]"'' ''Webcomic/BobTheAngryFlower'' uses calculus as a measure of whether someone's smart enough to be worth his time (given how often he's been portrayed as a MadScientist, it shouldn't be surprising that Bob knows higher mathematics). Notice that, while other people seem to have half-forgotten their calculus, they still have studied it at some time in the past.


[[folder: Web Original ]]

* In ''WebVideo/EpicRapBattlesOfHistory'', UsefulNotes/NeilDeGrasseTyson shows off by solving a problem posed by UsefulNotes/IsaacNewton, and this is treated as an impressive achievement. The problem? To find the integral of a secant.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/DextersLaboratory'', Dexter quips "this will be easier than calculus!"
* In ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'', the Mathter, despite being a mathematics-themed villain, seems to possess no knowledge of any math above basic algebra. He is understandably beaten by Ron Stoppable's father, who is an actuary and thus actually has knowledge of math of calculus level and beyond.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'', "The Duh-Vinci Code," Professor Farnsworth says something along the lines of, "Oooh, I'm going to go listen to that calculus lecture!"
* ''WesternAnimation/TotalDrama Revenge of the Island'' has the ''Series/JerseyShore'' [[InsultToRocks reject]] character, Anne Maria, mention that she's "no algebra whiz" when referring to a numbers code clue.