# Engaging students: Using right-triangle trigonometry

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 Cody Luttrell. His topic, from Precalculus: using right-triangle trigonometry.

A.1 Now that students are able to use right triangle trigonometry, there is many things that they can do. For example, they know how to take the height of buildings if needed. If they are standing 45 feet away from a building and they have to look up approximately 60 degrees to see the top of the building, they can approximate the height of the building by using what they know about right triangle trigonometry. Ideally, they would say that the tan(60 degree)= (Height of building)/(distance from building = 45). They can now solve for the height of the building. The students could also use right triangle trigonometry to solve for the elevation it takes to look at the top of a building if they know the distance they are from the building and the height of the building. It would be set up as the previous example, but the students would be using inverse cosine to solve for the elevation.

A.2 An engaging activity and/or project I could do would be to find the height of a pump launch rocket. Let’s say I can find a rocket that states that it can travel up to 50 feet into the air. I could pose this problem to my students and ask how we can test to see if that is true. Some students may guess and say by using a measuring tape, ladder, etc. to measure the height of the rocket. I would then introduce right triangle trigonometry to the students. After a couple of days of practice, we can come back to the question of the height of the rocket. I could ask how the students could find the height of the rocket by using what we have just learned. Ideally, I would want to here that we can use tangent to find the height of the rocket. By using altimeters, I would then have the students stand at different distances from the rocket and measure the altitude. They would then compute the height of the rocket.

D.1 In the late 6th century BC, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem. This states that in a right triangle, the distance of the two legs of a right triangle squared added together is equal to the distance of the hypotenuse squared ($a^2+b^2=c^2$). This actually was a special case for the law of cosines ($c^2=a^2+b^2-2ab\cos(\theta)$). By also just knowing 2 side lengths of a right triangle, one may use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve for the third side which will then in return be able to give you the six trigonometric values for a right triangle. The Pythagorean Theorem also contributes to one of the most know trigonometric identities, $\sin^2 x+\cos^2 x=1$. This can be seen in the unit circle where the legs of the right triangle are $\sin x$ and $\cos x$ and the hypotenuse is 1 unit long. Because Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem, we were then able to solve more complex problems by using right triangle trigonometry.

# 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 DeForest Mitchell. His topic, from Precalculus: graphing sine and cosine functions.

C2: How has this topic appeared in high culture (art, classical music, theatre, etc.)?

There are multiple forms of art and music and theater using sine and cosine. I am going to focus on music. Tone and sound in itself is a reverb of sine functions with different wavelengths and amplitude. This is such a great importance not only in knowing sine functions but also being able to create music. Knowing what a tone is and why the sound is becoming higher/lower or quieter/louder. If the amplitude is shorter then the sound itself will be quieter and vise versa with the amplitude growing so will the over all sound. If the period is increasing or becoming longer, the sound will be deeper, while shorter periods will create sharper and higher pitch sounds. Once you combine the amplitude and the period in specific ways that’s how specific notes and tones are made. As shown below, there is a combination of amplitudes and periods to create a sound wave using sine functions. With this in mind mathematically you can predict what a tone or song will sound like just depending on the inflection of amplitude and frequency of the function.

B1: How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

One big component to my personal understanding of graphing sine and cosine is seeing a physical model of it. Such as a spring in physics, or the light spectrum. There are websites such as https://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/trig-sin-cos-tan-graphs.html to be able to represent a sine function being sketched as a weighted spring bounces up and down. There are different slides to adjust the stiffness and dampening of the spring to show the alternate forms of the same graph. Since and cosine are used in many different forms of sciences, such as wavelengths (as shown in the picture below). This is a great way to show the students that there is a reason to learn the subject and that there are practical uses for it in life outside of school. For example, with the wavelength spectrum a teacher can make the correlation that a sine function with a longer period would be like soundwaves that have a longer wavelength, also to show that there are only certain wavelengths that we can see and there can be a correlation to graph the sine period and that if you were to make it into a function that there is only a certain few period lengths for a sine function for humans to be able to see colors.

D1: What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic? (You might want to consult Math Through The Ages.)

Circles have been around for millions of years and are to this day one of the simplest shapes. With Circles and by tracking the circumference of the circle you can make sine and cosine graphs. Joseph Fourier (1768 – 1830 A.D.) was a very influential person with the devilment of graphing sine and cosine functions. He was so due to his the foundning of the Fourier series. “Fourier series (thus the Fourier transform and finally the Discrete Fourier Transform) is our ancient desire to express everything in terms of circles or the most exceptionally simple and elegant abstract human construct. Most people prefer to say the same thing in a more ahistorical manner: to break a function into sines and cosines.” The summative way to say saying that Fourier came up with an equation to take any repeating series and be able to turn it into forms of sine and cosine to be able to graph. Which in turn creates a circle to better understand the said repeating series. This was a great mathematical find to show the correlation between any repeating series and the more well-known sine and cosine terms today. As shown below, with the Fourier series they were able to take a repeating series to “convert” them into a circle and then be able to graph the functions in terms of sine and cosine.

Resources:

https://www.gnu.org/software/gnuastro/manual/html_node/Fourier-series-historical-background.html

# 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 Christian Oropeza. His topic, from Precalculus: graphing sine and cosine functions.

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

An activity for students to understand how to graph sine and cosine could consist the use of website desmos (Reference 1). In this activity students will be in pairs and must complete a worksheet that list different forms of the equation sine and cosine that illustrate some of the transformations for sine and cosine. One student will enter the equation onto desmos and the other student will draw the graph on a separate worksheet. The pair will switch roles after each equation, so both students understand how to interpret and draw a given sine or cosine equation. After all the equations have been graphed and sketched, each pair will move on to the next part of the activity in which they must manipulate the equation asin(bx+c)+d and acos(bx+c)+d on desmos where a,b,c, and d are all  numerical sliders that can be adjusted to help students visually interpret what transformation they represent. Finally, to prove that students understood the material, each pair will come up with a sketch of a transformation of sine or cosine and trade with another pair of students, in which they must figure out the corresponding equation that matches the given graph.

How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

This topic comes up any subject that has sinusoidal waves, such as physics, calculus, and some engineering classes. For example, in calculus graphing the derivative of sine gives the graph of cosine. This shows students that the slope at any point on the sine curve is the cosine and the slope of any point on the cosine curve is the negative of the sine. The topic of sine and cosine is a crucial component  in electrical engineering (EE). For EE, there’s a class called, circuit analysis that has a section named “Euler’s Sine Wave” and “Euler’s Cosine Wave”, which incorporates the use of Euler’s formula (Reference 2). Also, in electrical engineering, there’s a machine called a “signal generator”, which sends different types of signals as inputs to circuit. This machine can alter the frequency and amplitude of the signal, where amplitude represents the amount of voltage inputted into the circuit. In math, there’s a topic called “Fourier Series” that also incorporates sine and cosine (Reference 3).

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.

Desmos (Reference 1), can be used to show students the different transformations of both functions. This way students can visually understand what each component is and how each component affects the functions y=asin(bx+c)+d and y=acos(bx+c)+d, where a is the amplitude, b is the period, c is the phase shift, and d is the vertical shift. Vision learning (Reference 4), is also a great website for students when they are introduced to the topic of sine and cosine. This website goes over the history of sine by relating it to waves and circles. The website first goes over how Hipparchus calculated the trigonometric ratios and how that led to the sine function. This website gives students a background on how the functions sine and cosine came to be over time. Also, this website talks about how when the Unit Circle is placed on a Cartesian graph, this illustrates how sine and cosine take over a periodic trend, so students can see why the graphs of sine and cosine are infinite if the domain is all real numbers.

References:

# Engaging students: Using right-triangle trigonometry

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 Cameron Story. His topic, from Precalculus: using right-triangle trigonometry.

What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

Most right-angle trigonometry word problems involve giving two measurements of a triangle (angle, sides or both) and asking the students to solve for the missing piece. I argue that these problems are fine for practice, but one has to admit these problems encourage “plugging and chugging” along with their formula sheets.

To make things interesting, I would use something along the lines of this word problem from purplemath.com:

“You use a transit to measure the angle of the sun in the sky; the sun fills 34′ of arc. Assuming the sun is 92,919,800 miles away, find the diameter of the sun. Round your answer to the nearest mile,” (Stapel, 2018).

This is incredible! Using trigonometry, students can find out the diameter of the entire sun just by knowing how far away it is and how much of the sky the sun takes up. If you were to use this word problem in a experimental type of project, I strongly recommend using the moon for measurement instead; you can probably guess why measuring the sun in the sky is a BAD idea.

What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic?

One amazing culture to contribute to the study of triangles and trigonometry were the Ancient Babylonians, who lived in what is now Iraq about 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found clay tablets from 1800 BC where the Babylonians carved and recorded various formulas and geometric properties. There were several such tablets found to have been lists of Pythagorean triples, which are integer solutions to the famous equation $a^2+b^2=c^2$.

The Greeks, while going through their own philosophical and mathematical renaissance, gave the namesake for trigonometry. Melanie Palen, writer for the blog Owlcation, makes is very clear why trigonometry “… sounds triangle-y.”  The word trigonometry is derived from two Greek words – ‘trigonon’ which means ‘triangle’ and ‘metron’ meaning ‘measure.’ “Put together, the words mean “triangle measuring”” (Palen, 2018).

How can technology (YouTube) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

In the YouTube video “Tattoos on Math” by the YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown (link: https://youtu.be/IxNb1WG_Ido), Grant Sanderson offers a unique perspective on the six main trigonometric functions. In the video. Grant explains how his friend Cam has the initials CSC, which is how we notationaly represent the cosecant function. Not only is this engaging because most students wouldn’t even think of seeing tattoos in math class, but also because Grant always backs up the mathematical content in his videos with beautiful animations.

Students know how sine and cosine functions are represented geometrically; these are just the “legs” of a right-angled triangle. Most students, however, only see the other four trigonometric functions as formulas to be solved. However, as Grant cleverly explains and visualizes in this video, all of these functions have geometric representations as well when paired with the unit circle. This video (moreover, this entire YouTube channel) can be helpful to those visual-learning students who need more than a formula to be convinced of something like the cosecant function.

References:

Palen, Melanie. “What Is Trigonometry? Description & History of Trig.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 25 July 2018, owlcation.com/stem/What-is-Trigonometry.

Stapel, Elizabeth. “Right-Triangle Word Problems.” Purplemath, 2018, http://www.purplemath.com/modules/rghtprob.html

# Engaging students: Defining sine, cosine and tangent in a right triangle

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 Jessica Williams. Her topic, from Precalculus: defining sine, cosine and tangent in a right triangle.

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

I know of a good project/activity for the students to do that will be extremely engaging. You could either do this for an elaborate activity for your students or maybe an opening activity for day 2 of a lesson. For my class, I would get a square cookie cake, and have the slices cut into right triangles. I would allow each student to have a piece (but not eat it just yet). The students will be provided with rulers and a protractor. The students will each measure the hypotenuse of their cookie cake and the degree of whichever angle you would like them to measure, however each student should be measuring the same parts so do this unanimously). As a class, decide on an average for the measurements for everyone to use so that the data is not off. Then take the supplies away from the students and ask the students to find the rest of the missing sides and angles of their piece of cookie cake. They will also be provided with a worksheet to go along with this activity. This is a good review activity or al elaborate activity to allow further practice of real world application of right triangle trigonometry. Then go over as a class step by step how they solved for their missing angles and side lengths and make each group be accountable for sharing one of them. This allows the students to all be actively participating. Through out the lesson, make sure to tell the kids as long as they are all participating they will get to eat their slice when the lesson is done. Lastly, allow the students to eat their slice of cookie cake.

How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Prior to learning about right triangle trigonometry the students will know how to use the Phythagorean Theorem to find how long the missing side length is of a right triangle. The students know basic triangle information such as, the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180 degrees. The students already know the difference between the hypotenuse and the other two legs. The students know that hypotenuse will be the longest leg and the leg across from the 90 degree angle. The students will also know the meaning of a fraction or ratio. The students may need some refreshing of memory on some parts of prior knowledge, but as teachers we know this is an extremely important part of a lesson plan. Even as teacher we tend to forget things and require a jog of memory. A simple activity such as headbands or a kahoot with vocabulary would be an excellent idea for accessing the students prior knowledge. This allows the students to formally assess themselves and where they stand with the knowledge. Also, it allows the teacher to formally assess the students and see what they remember or parts they are struggling on. This allows the teacher to know what things to spend more time on.

How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Technology is always an amazing aspect of the classroom. Like stated above, a vocab review using headbands or kahoot would be a good idea for this type of lesson that DEFINITELY needs prior knowledge to be applied in order to succeed. Also, showing the students how to plug in sine, cosine, and tangent is crucial. They have seen these buttons on the calculator but they do not know what they mean or how to use them. Using an online TI on display for the class is great. I had to do this with my 10th grade students to make sure they understood how to use the 3 buttons. Also, when using arcsin, arccos, and arctan it can be confusing. Using technology to show the class as a whole is the best route to go. Also, technology can used as review for a homework assignment or even extra credit for the students. It benefits them by getting extra review and extra credit points. I found a website called http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/mejhm/index.html?l=0&ID1=AB.MATH.JR.SHAP&ID2=AB.MATH.JR.SHAP.TRI&lesson=html/object_interactives/trigonometry/use_it.html , which is a golf game that requires review of triangles and trigonometry. It allows the students to practice the ratios of SOH-CAH-TOA using a given triangle.

# Engaging students: Defining sine, cosine and tangent in a right triangle

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 Jessica Williams. Her topic, from Geometry: defining sine, cosine and tangent in a right triangle.

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

I’ve actually had the opportunity to teach this lesson to my 10th graders last semester. It is a difficult concept for the students to understand, however if you teach it in a way the students are actively engaged, it helps extremely. Prior to this lesson, the students knew about the hypotenuse and knew the other sides lengths as “legs.” We started by calling 3 students up to the front to hold up our three triangle posters. (triangle cut outs with the 90 degree angle showing and then there was an agle missing). We asked the students how we could find a missing angle given only one side length. For starters, I demonstrated on one triangle by placing a spray water bottle at the missing angle given, and spray the water across.

What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Trigonometry was originally developed for the use of sailing as a navigation method. The origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley, and Mesopotamia. This was over 4000 years ago. Measuring angles in degrees, minutes, and seconds comes from the Babylonian’s base 60 system of numbers. In 150 B.C.E, Hipparchus made a trigonometric table using sine to solve triangles. Later on, Ptolemy extended the trig calculations in 100 C.E. Also, in interesting fact is the ancient Sinhalese used trig to calculate for water flow. Persian mathematician Abul Wafa introduced the angle addition identities. As you can see, there are MANY different mathematicians who distributed to the topic of trigonometry. A lot of them built upon previous work and discovered new formulas, identities, etc. It’s amazing to see how even trigonometry is used to every day life. You always hear people say, “When will I ever use this is life?” and it bugs me to hear this. However, I always have examples of how math is used in our everyday world and from a past long ago that advanced us to where we are today.

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

I would show this video that I found on youtube. I would exclude the first movie example that involves shooting, however the rest are great examples.

Showing movie clips to students is always a great way to grab their attention. Visually showing them that math is a part of movies, and every day life shows them that it is important. This video would also be great to use as practice problem, but blur out one of the side lengths or angles missing. You could play the movie scene then pause it on the part with the triangle and have the students solve for missing angle or side length. It would be a fun activity for the students and involve great practice. You could even make this a homework assignment. It’s engaging to watch and keeps the student’s attention while doing homework. The video shows that math is involved in dancing, buildings, etc. This activity also can excite students to try to find math in the movies or tv shows that the watch. You could assign the students to pay attention to to the next couple of shows or movies the watch and to bring back to class an example or two of how math was incorporated in it. Mathematics goes unnoticed because it is honestly part of our everyday norm/lifestyle.

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Trigonometry

# 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.

How 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.

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.

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.

# Borwein integrals

When teaching proofs, I always stress to my students that it’s not enough to do a few examples and then extrapolate, because it’s possible that the pattern might break down with a sufficiently large example. Here’s an example of this theme that I recently learned: