Engaging students: Graphing Sine and Cosine Functions

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Saundra Francis. Her topic, from Precalculus: graphing sine and cosine functions.

green lineHow has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

To engage students you can have them record a song using the WavePad app. Have students choose a clip of their favorite song to record. Once they record the song they choose, the app will display the sound waves compiled that are used to create the sounds in the song the song. Students will realize that sound waves are in the form of the sine function. This will engage students since you would have related the topic of graphing sine and cosine functions to their favorite song. You could also have students create their own sounds and record them with the app to see the graph associated with the sound they made. Students can look at their sound and other classmates sounds are recognize differences in the waves, you can relate this to the equation f(x)=asin(bx+c)+d. You can them work with students to discover what the constants terms mean in relation to the parent function of sine.


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How has this topic appeared in high culture (art, classical music, theater, etc.)?

Sine waves are the basis of sound. Have a piece by Beethoven playing while students are entering the classroom. Tell students that Beethoven was able to create music while he was in the process of becoming deaf. Ask students how they think Beethoven was able to create music in spite of that set back. After you have students share some answers show them the video above which explains how Beethoven’s music (all music) is related to sine waves. The music of his “Moonlight Sonata” is explained using math in the TED-Ed video. While Beethoven did not use this method to create his music he said that he knew what the music looked like. This will show students an example of how sine graphs are used in real life and get them interested in graphing sine and cosine functions.


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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.

Students will be given a TI-Nspire calculator in order to discover how changing the amplitude, period, horizontal shift, or vertical shift changes the equation of sine. Students will start with the graph of f(x)=sinx. They will then manipulate the graph on the calculator to change the function. Have them move the function up and down, right and left, and work with the slope of sinx and the slope of the x. Have students write dawn some of their new functions and sketch the graph. They will then compare how changing the graph effects the equation of f(x)=sinx. Introduce f(x)=asin(bx+c)+d . Give students some time to compare the functions that they created to the formula and describe how each constant changes the graph. Students will hopefully discover how the function f(x)=asin(bx+c)+d relates to amplitude, period, horizontal shift, and vertical shift.

1. https://education.ti.com/en/timathnspired/us/detail?id=4E9BA7808CA74F6599BD5EA2037C088A&t=C52AEC55A39243D182772F76318B901C
2. https://www.smore.com/gy9h4-sine-waves-and-music
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=zAxT0mRGuoY

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