Linear and Matrix Algebra for Multivariate Calculus

About the Textbook

This free, online text is designed to be used as a supplement in multivariate calculus courses.

The central concept of differential calculus is that of the local linearization. Most introductory multivariable calculus texts define and utilize vectors and vector operations, but stop short of defining linear transformations. The purpose of these notes is to fill that gap. By developing the basic properties and vocabulary of linear transformations and the corresponding matrix algebra, the aim is to provide a natural, unifying, and useful language for understanding the definition of the derivative and facts including the chain rule.

The material in these notes is not meant to be a short version of a full semester linear algebra course. It is designed to provide enough basic linear algebra and matrix algebra to work effectively with the material in a standard introductory multivariable calculus course.

A secondary purpose of these notes is to address the common practice in undergraduate textbooks (even in courses on linear algebra!) of introducing matrix multiplication as a "voodoo" practice, that is, a complicated operation on boxes of numbers given without motivation. Here, we develop matrix multiplication as the natural consequence of the fact that matrices represent linear transformations: the product of matrices that represent two linear transformations is the matrix that represents their composition. For this development alone, the first three sections of these notes could be of use in a linear algebra course.

The text is designed for active engagement, with carefully structured exercises throughout.

Here is an example of a possible schedule for integrating these notes into a multivariate calculus course in a total of 3 to 5 50-minute class meetings.

About the Author

David W. Lyons is a professor of mathematics at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, USA, where he has taught and conducted research since 2000. Lyons works in mathematical physics, leading a student-faculty research program in quantum information science since 2002. For more information, visit his academic website at the URL below.