Category

Discrete calculus

Summary
Discrete calculus or the calculus of discrete functions, is the mathematical study of incremental change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of generalizations of arithmetic operations. The word calculus is a Latin word, meaning originally "small pebble"; as such pebbles were used for calculation, the meaning of the word has evolved and today usually means a method of computation. Meanwhile, calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the study of continuous change. Discrete calculus has two entry points, differential calculus and integral calculus. Differential calculus concerns incremental rates of change and the slopes of piece-wise linear curves. Integral calculus concerns accumulation of quantities and the areas under piece-wise constant curves. These two points of view are related to each other by the fundamental theorem of discrete calculus. The study of the concepts of change starts with their discrete form. The development is dependent on a parameter, the increment of the independent variable. If we so choose, we can make the increment smaller and smaller and find the continuous counterparts of these concepts as limits. Informally, the limit of discrete calculus as is infinitesimal calculus. Even though it serves as a discrete underpinning of calculus, the main value of discrete calculus is in applications. Discrete differential calculus is the study of the definition, properties, and applications of the difference quotient of a function. The process of finding the difference quotient is called differentiation. Given a function defined at several points of the real line, the difference quotient at that point is a way of encoding the small-scale (i.e., from the point to the next) behavior of the function. By finding the difference quotient of a function at every pair of consecutive points in its domain, it is possible to produce a new function, called the difference quotient function or just the difference quotient of the original function.