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**Functional Uses for Trigonometry
**

Andy Yerkes Practical Applications of Advanced Mathematics Mrs. Goodrum and Mrs. Hunt

Using a theodolite. and measuring distances. using everything learned sitting in a desk is more difficult in a more realistic situation. Although trigonometry can easily be used in a classroom situation. tape measure. and calculator. Anyone sitting in a classroom will ask. trigonometry can be a very versatile branch of mathematics. navigating. All that is needed to make a triangle is three points. “When are we ever going to use this?” The simple fact is that trigonometry is more important than many of us realize. and yet those three points can have an infinite number of uses. It is used in a lot of different applications in our world.Functional 2 Abstract Trigonometry is the study of triangles. such as surveying. .

2001).Functional 3 Background Trigonometry is the study of triangles and has been developed over many centuries. There are a number of different theories and formulas involved with the following investigation. or a table for solving triangles. The law states that: . They used the study for navigation and construction of maps. In the triangle. which is a table that shows the angles in a circle for a large fixed radius (Joyce. They defined both sine and cosine functions. Ptolemy furthered Hipparchus’s work and derived the sine and cosine rules. a Greek astronomer developed the first sine table. Hipparchus. He was also the first to develop a table of chords. He also named the study “trigonometry” (ThinkQuest. The first people to use angles were the Babylonians. Bartholomew Pitiscus was the first to consider solving plane trigonometry on the earth instead of using trigonometry for astronomy. and he is therefore credited with the founding of trigonometry. Europeans also started developing in trigonometric aspects.). During this time. the Chinese were able to develop the tangent function.d. also developing a table of chords (History of Trigonometry. The Greeks were the first to go further in developing trigonometry. Some argue that trigonometry is based on chords. the law of cosines will be used in the project. and the capital letters are the opposite angles of the side of the same letter. During medieval times. the lower case letters represent the sides of the triangle. 1996-1997). n. For example. and further expanded on the Babylonian measurement of 360 degrees for a circle.

which states: sinA = sinB = sinC a b c This formula is used when there are two angles and an included side. Sine is opposite over hypotenuse. Research Question What functional uses does trigonometry have outside of the classroom. Also note that the abbreviation “cos” means cosine. cosine. the longest side of the triangle. The different sides of the triangle are the adjacent side which is the one closest to the angle being used. Tangent is opposite over adjacent. and the hypotenuse. Also used will be the law of sines.Functional 4 This formula is used to find other parts of a triangle when two sides and the included angle of those sides are known. There are three functions of trigonometry: sine. Cosine is adjacent over hypotenuse. the definitions of the different trigonometric functions will be used. and tangent. Finally. the opposite side which is the side opposite of the angle being used. . These definitions only apply in using right triangles. The other form of the law is: cosA = b2 + c2 – a2 2(b)(c) cosB = a2 + c2 – b2 2(a)(c) cosC = a^2 + b^2 – c^2 2(a)(b) This formula is used to find the angles of a triangle when all three sides are known.

or if they need to construct scaffolding around the structure. The calculator is a TI-83 which has graphing applications and all of the trigonometry functions mentioned (tangent. from 180 degrees. the legs of the tripod are adjustable. and there are liquid leveling instruments on the theodolite as well. the sum of all of the angles. To find the angle closest to the theodolite. a variety of problems were designed. this height will be added . The angle found by the theodolite and the distance between the theodolite and the tower can be used in a tangent function as followed to find the height of the tower. Designed problems Problem (1.Functional 5 Methods To display different uses for trigonometry.5 feet tall. they need to know how tall the tower is to determine whether or not they could use a cherry-picker to raise up the people painting. sine and cosine). 90 degrees. There is a lens to look through and crosshairs in the lens to level the lens out. The angle from the theodolite to the top of the tower will be found. a theodolite will be placed 125 feet away from the base of the tower. Using a theodolite. a tape measure. one would subtract the angle found and the right angle from the triangle. and a calculator. with “y” being the tower’s height. In order to do so. As a project.) The Belk Tower is located in the central part of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s campus. To also assure the lens is on a level plane. A theodolite is a surveying tool on a tripod for balance. the senior class wants to give the tower a new coat of white paint to give the tower a rejuvenated look. Since the theodolite is 4. a right triangle is made. The theodolite finds the zenith angle of the triangle or the angle closest to the top of the tower. the problems were solved. and since the tower is an upright structure. To find the height.

3 deg.) = (y / 125) * 125 y = 140. Using a tangent function. and to do so. The angle was found to be 77 degrees 27 minutes 30 seconds. To find the area between the spaces. Admission is going to be charged. a tape measure could not be used due to the size of the breezeway and the many stairways and poles obstructing one’s procedures.3 deg. .) A party is being planned in the breezeway of the Colvard building. rectangular space.5 = 144.79 feet. Since the breezeway is a rectangle.83 feet. leaving a long.79 feet Problem (2. there is assumed to be a level plane between the theodolite and the tower. A theodolite was placed on the corner of the building and measured the angle from one corner to the other.29 y= 140.) = y / 125 125*tan(48. this would not happen. the distance from one end of the breezeway to the other is 200. because the land that is usually being surveyed has many dips and bows in it.68 feet. the two distances of 44.29 + 4. Note that in this measurement. throwing off the measurement.85 feet.85 feet were multiplied and the area was found to be 8973. The distance between the theodolite and the opposite side was found to be 44. However it worked for the situation that was designed because minute differences are irrelevant in determining whether or not a cherry-picker could be used. every stairway and both exits will be temporarily walled up.Functional 6 to the total answer and the height of the tower is found to be 144. tan(48.68 feet and 200. In a reality situation.

Being exposed to these types of situations puts the students out in a situation where they get to use the knowledge from the classroom and apply it to a realistic situation. Therefore. math becomes more than a mere subject from school.68 = ( y / 44.68 ) * 44. .85 feet * 44.68 tan(77. math becomes a vital tool necessary for human advancement. trigonometry helped solve the problem. When a tape measure would not have been adequate to measure a distance.83 square feet Conclusion The investigation concludes that trigonometry is very useful outside of a classroom setting.85 feet 200.Functional 7 tan(77.68 feet = 8973.68 y = 200.4583) * 44.4583) = y / 44.

Functional 8 References Joyce. Ptolemy’s Table of Chords Trigonometry in the Second Century.edu/~djoyce/java/trig/chords. Retrieved July 13. 2005 from http://hypertextbook. Trigonometry. D.html History of Trigonometry Retrieved July 13.com/eworld/chords.org.htm .lb/en/themes/Sciences/Mathematics/Trigonometry/history/Histor y%20.org/C0110248/trigonometry. Retrieved July 13.html. Chords Retrieved July 13. 2005 from http://aleph0. G.shtml#table ThinkQuest Team.thinkquest. 2005 from http://www.clarku. Elert. E. 2005 from http://library.cartage. (1996-1997). (1992-2003). (2001).

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