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Topic: Why trig?
Replies: 21   Last Post: Apr 3, 1997 4:17 PM

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John Sheehan

Posts: 7
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Why trig?
Posted: Apr 2, 1997 1:29 PM
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Many great statements about why study mathematics in general
have come out of this discussion. But what about trig
in particular? If I were to teach trig, I imagine that the first day I would
start with a graph of something like day of year versus number of hours of
daylight. Then ask how is this different from graphs that you saw in algebra.
It is pretty obvious that this is a fundamentally different creature from
a polynomial function. Then segue into the idea of families of functions.
Like there are plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, in mathematics
there are different kinds of functions. The purpose of trig is to study
one of these families. What questions do you want to know about any function?
Discuss what sorts of issues came up with the algebraic functions. Remember
the square root? It lead to irrational numbers. So do trig functions. They
are part of a large family called transcendental functions.

Throw in a little history. Mention some (diverse) applications. Tie it in to
what they already know. Give an idea about where this course leads to. That
to me is "motivation."

Then, roll up your sleeves and teach them some trig.

--John Sheehan
jsheehan@netcom.com






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