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Re: Why trig?
Posted:
Apr 1, 1997 11:32 AM


On Tue, 1 Apr 1997, Don Coleman wrote:
> >From Jack Roach: > > So far, every example given either has nothing to do with an application > > of trigonometry to a "reallife" probem or else it's of the form, "Trust > > me, kids. It's used to build atomic bombs." Out here in the "real world" > > folks do not spend a lot of time calculating the heights of various flag > > poles. This may not be clear to Mr. Price but it is to students. > > > > Jack > > > >
Jack Price wrote that during the 1970s:
"As educators we did not show students reallife applications of mathematics and therefore did not answer the question on many students' minds, `When will I ever use this stuff?'"
I cannot say with certainty what Mr. Price had in mind but I suspect we would all agree that by "reallife applications of mathematics," it is likely that he meant applications which are routine and essentially necessary in solving problems a significant percentage of the students could reasonably be expected to encounter at some future date.
> I thought the example of getting a computer to draw a circle > is pretty practical.
I'm not so sure that it's all that "practical" but in any case, the way it's usually done makes no real use of trigonometry.
> There has been mention of solving problems > about triangles of one sort of another also. Is this not real > world?
Can you name a place where it's done? (Contrary to a common myth, it is _not_ done in navigation.)
I thought it was still an open question whether teaching > is more effective using real world problems or just plain > interesting problems. (Don't ask me "what is interesting?")
This may be so but first I would like to see a few examples of "real life applications of mathematics" as outlined above which a student could understand at the time he was taking the course to which the example relates.
> It is quite a daring thing to throw out as obsolete a subject > so thoroughly embedded in mathematics as trigonometry.
Not just daring. Plain stupid.
> Indeed, > to have to argue that trig is useful in practical problems is > similar to having to argue that a hammer is a useful tool for > a carpenter.
I agree but does Jack Price?
Jack
> Don >  > Don Coleman  (606) 2777678 (Home) > Mathematics Dept  2574802 (Office) > University of Kentucky  2574078 (Fax) > Lexington, KY 405060027  email: mtbb0@ms.uky.edu > >



