There are two main ways to think of the definite integral. The easiest one to understand, and the one we'll consider first, is as a means for computing areas (and volumes). The second way the definite integral is used is as a sum. That is, we use the definite integral to ``add things up''. Here are some examples.
Of course, when we use a definite integral to compute an area or a volume, we are adding up area or volume. So you might ask why make a distinction? The answer is that the notion of an integral as a means of computing an area or volume is much more concrete and is easier to understand.
We will learn in class that the definite integral is actually defined as a (complicated) limit of sums, so it makes sense that the integral should be thought of as a sum. We will also learn in class that the indefinite integral, or anti-derivative, can be used to evaluate definite integrals. Students often concentrate on techniques for evaluating integrals, and ingnore the definition of the integral as a sum. This is a mistake, for the following reasons.