In this series, I’m compiling some of the quips and one-liners that I’ll use with my students to hopefully make my lessons more memorable for them.
I use today’s quip when discussing the Taylor series expansions for sine and/or cosine:
To try to convince students that these intimidating formulas are indeed correct, I’ll ask them to pull out their calculators and compute the first three terms of the above expansion for $x=0.2$, and then compute . The results:
This generates a pretty predictable reaction, “Whoa; it actually works!” Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise; calculators actually use the Taylor series expansion (and a few trig identity tricks) when calculating sines and cosines. So, I’ll tell my class,
It’s not like your calculator draws a right triangle, takes out a ruler to measure the lengths of the opposite side and the hypotenuse, and divides to find the sine of an angle.