Q&A #195

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Introductory trigonometry: right triangle

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From: shelly

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 1998112720:02:50
Subject: RE: outdoor trig

I do an activity with my students where, in groups of three, two
students walk a certain number of paces(b & c - not necessarily the
same) away from the third person at a set angle (A).  The third person
can then estimate the number of paces between the other two using the
law of cosines.  One of the other two then paces the distance to check
the results.  The students can then change places and all three can
try their shot at the formula.

     A=angle between paths of 2nd and 3rd students (angle at the 
          starting point of all three students)
     B=location of second student after walking c paces
     C=location of third student after walking b paces
     a=distance between 2nd and 3rd students

Law of Cosines:  a^2 = b^2 + c^2 - 2bc cos A

What I like about this activity is that the students are thrilled to
be outside for about 30 min., they get to test results of a formula on
values that they generate, and there is a rich problem solving
component as groups see the need for a "standard" pace length within
their group.  This also reinforces the distinctions between estimates
and actual measures, and opens up a discussion for the role of each. 
When they get to book problems later, they are much more accepting of
the formula than they might otherwise be.

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