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Triangle Trigonometry and Pythagorean Identity:

Pre-Requisite Understandings:
Students should be able to conceptualize sweeping out an angle counterclockwise
from the 3 oclock position for an angle whose vertex is the center of a circle.
Students should be able to conceptualize division as a comparison of the relative
size of one quantity in terms of another.
Students should understand that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs of
a right triangle is equal to the length of its hypotenuse squared (The Pythagorean
Theorem).
For an angle of measure swept out counterclockwise from the 3 oclock position,
whose vertex is the center of a circle with radius of length r, and for the point P that
is the intersection point of the circle and the terminal ray
of the angle of measure :

Students should understand that

sin ( ) gives

the vertical distance above the horizontal


diameter of the point P in radius lengths.

Students should understand that

cos ( )

gives

the horizontal distance to the right of the vertical


diameter of the circle of the point P in radius
lengths.

Students should understand that

tan ()

gives

the relative size of the vertical distance of P above the horizontal diameter in
terms of the horizontal distance of P to the right of the vertical diameter.

Learning Goals:
Students should be able to visualize a right triangle with one vertex at the center of
a circle with radius of length r, created by the rays of an angle with a measure of
swept out counterclockwise from the 3 oclock position and the vertical segment
from the point of intersection of the circle with the terminal ray to the horizontal
diameter.
For such a triangle:

Students should understand that

sin ( ) gives the relative size of the

length of the vertical leg of the triangle with respect to the length of the
hypotenuse (which is also r).

Students should understand that

cos ( )

gives the relative size of the

length of the horizontal leg of the triangle with respect to the length of the
hypotenuse (which is also r).

tan ()

Students should understand that

length of the vertical leg of the triangle with respect to the length of the
horizontal leg of the triangle.
Students should understand that applying the Pythagorean Theorem to this
situation yields the trigonometric identity

gives the relative size of the

sin 2 ( ) +cos2 ()

= 1. (See below)

Connections:
One beneficial connection that students can make to previous material would
be a connection to rational functions. In this lesson, the main idea is that
trigonometric functions give relative sizes of side lengths of the right triangle in
terms of each other. The sine, cosine, and tangent functions can be thought of as
similar to rational functions, because they give the relative size of one quantity to
another. In the case of sine and cosine, one of those quantities, the length of the
radius/hypotenuse, is constant, and the other quantity, the side length of the leg in
question, changes as the measure of the angle changes. The tangent function
compares the relative size of the value of sine to the value of cosine. This accounts
for the asymptotic behavior of the graph of the tangent function, when the value of
cosine is 0, the tangent function is undefined.
Phases and Steps of Lesson Logic:

I would begin the lesson asking students to consider a task (a visual is


provided that illustrates the situation):
o A 10 foot ladder is leaning up against a wall. The ladder creates an
angle of measure 1 radian with the ground. How far above the ground
is the top of the ladder? How far from the wall is the bottom of the
ladder?

Students would discuss their ideas about solving the problem first as partners
and then as a class. If students seem a bit unsure, I would guide them in
seeing the vertex of the angle as being the center of a circle with a radius
length of 10 feet, and the top of the ladder being a point on that circle.
Students would eventually recognize this as an application of concepts we
had considered previously.
I would call my students attention to the triangle created by the ladder, the
wall, and the ground. I would ask them to think about changing the angle that
the ladder makes with the ground, and how changing the angle would change
the triangle created.
At this point I would introduce another visual that shows a ray beginning at
the center of a circle with a specified radius length sweeping out an angle
counterclockwise from the 3 oclock position (only between 0 and

radians), with the lines drawn to indicate the triangle created. I would ask
students what all of these different triangles have in common. (They are right
triangles). Anything else? What about their hypotenuses? (Hypotenuses for all
these triangles are the same length - the length of the radius.) What is
different about them? (leg lengths, non-right angles). If I were to pause this
animation right now, and tell you the measure of the angle at that instant,
could you tell me how long the other side lengths are? Think back to the
opening task. Students discuss. Students would give their ideas (hypotenuse
length is the same as the radius length, using sine and cosine and the radius
lengths to calculate the other lengths). I would then ask them if they could
tell me how many radius lengths long each of the sides are. (Even easier, you
dont even need the radius length since sine and cosine give you the length
in radius lengths, and the hypotenuse is just 1 radius length.) Hmmm
interesting. So what we are saying is that we are now taking and measuring
the vertical side length with a measuring stick the size of the hypotenuse. We
are talking about relative size here. What can we say about the relative size
of the vertical side length with respect to the hypotenuse length? (It is equal
to

sin ( ) radius lengths


=sin ( ) ). What about the relative size of the
1 radiuslengths

horizontal side length with respect to the hypotenuse length? (It is equal to

cos ( ) radiuslengths
=cos ( ) .
1 radius lengths

Heres a little more challenging one: What

about the relative size of the vertical side length with respect to the
horizontal side length? Remember that we changed our measuring stick this
time. (It is equal to

sin ( ) radius lengths


=tan ( ) ).
cos ( ) radiuslengths

So, Im sure that in reference to right triangle trigonometry, you have hear
the mnemonic device Sohcahtoa. Think about itthis is where that comes
from. The sine of theta is the opposite (vertical side) over the hypotenuse.

As we saw before, the sine of theta gives the relative size of the length of the
vertical side (they call it opposite) with respect to the length of the
hypotenuse (which is the same as the radius). Cosine is the adjacent
(horizontal side) over the hypotenuse. We saw that the cosine of theta gives
the relative size of the length of the horizontal side (they call it adjacent)
with respect to the length of the hypotenuse. Tangent is the opposite over
the adjacent. We know that the tangent of theta gives the relative size of
the sine of theta with respect to the cosine of theta. This is the same as the
relative size of the vertical side (the opposite) with respect to the horizontal
side (the hypotenuse). It makes a lot more sense when you know where it
comes from, huh?
At this point I would want to do a quick show me with whiteboards (detailed
in the assessment section).
Lets shift gears just a little and look at one more thing you probably
remember from working with right triangles: The Pythagorean Theorem. A
new visual, very simple, of just a right triangle, angle of measure labeled,
and the hypotenuse labeled r. For this triangle, how long is the vertical side?
(r sin()) How long is the horizontal side? (r cos()). So now that we have our
side lengths, lets try them out in the Pythagorean Theorem. That gives us

r 2 sin 2 ( )+ r cos 2 ( )=r 2 . Lets simplify that a little and factor out an
gives us

r 2 . That

sin 2 ( ) +cos2 ( )=1 . This is a trigonometric identity. For an angle of

any measure, the square of its sine and the square of its cosine added
together equals one.
I would have students complete an exit ticket problem (detailed in the
assessment section)

Assessment:

Whiteboard Show-Me:
o Given:

For each of the 6 problems of the show-me, I would give them a length
for x, y, or r and ask them to give me the lengths of the other two sides
in terms of theta.

o
o

Ex. Suppose the length of side x is 3 inches. What are the lengths of
the other two sides in terms of ?
Answer with reasoning: We only know the length of one side, so we
have to be able to relate the lengths of the sides we dont know to the
sides that we know. We know the length of side x, so we need to relate
y to it somehow. We know that the tangent of theta gives the relative

y
3

size of side y with respect to side x, so

tan ( ) =

express y in terms of theta so we have:

y=3 tan ( ) .

. We want to

Now we need to

relate the length of side r to the length of side x. We know that the
cosine of theta gives the relative size of the length of side x with
respect to the length of side r, so

3
r

so

r=

3
cos ( ) .

Similar reasoning would follow for other problems presented.


Students are using the understanding they have built about relative
sizes of triangle side lengths and their relationship to trigonometric
functions.
Exit Ticket:
Finish the following sentences without using the words opposite or
adjacent:
o For a right triangle with an angle of measure swept counterclockwise
from the 3 oclock position:
sin () gives the relative size of the length of
with respect to the length of
.
cos () gives the relative size of the length of
with respect to the length of
.
tan () gives the relative size of the length of
with respect to the length of
.
Answers:
sin () gives the relative size of the length of the vertical leg of
the triangle with respect to the length of the hypotenuse .
cos () gives the relative size of the length of the horizontal leg
of the triangle with respect to the length of the hypotenuse .
tan () gives the relative size of the length of the vertical leg of
the triangle with respect to
the length of the horizontal leg
of the triangle .
o I chose to use vertical and horizontal here because I am concerned
about them understanding the concept based on a triangle oriented
from the 3 oclock position. I would later explain to them about reorienting the triangle. I would have them ask themselves, questions
o
o

cos ( ) =

o
o

like, What is the new vertical? and What is the new horizontal?
when they are looking at triangles oriented differently.
The idea here is that the student can write in words the concept they
have learned.
Rubric for grading exit ticket:
6 pts 1 point for each answer given above or an equivalent
-1/2 point each if the student uses the words opposite or
adjacent to describe the vertical and horizontal sides,
respectively.

Summative Assessment:
A 10 foot ladder is leaning against a wall with the bottom of the ladder positioned 2
feet from the wall.
a
b
c

What is the measure of the angle created by the ladder and the ground?
Without using the Pythagorean Theorem, how far is the top of the ladder off
the ground? No points if you use the Pythagorean Theorem.
Suppose a painter moves the bottom of the ladder closer to the wall. The
measure of the angle created by the ladder and the ground is now radians.
a In terms of , how high is the top of the ladder off the ground?
b In terms of , how far is the bottom of the ladder from the wall?

*The purpose of this problem is the determine students basic


understanding of the relationship between the trigonometric functions
and relative size of triangle side lengths. Can they use what they know
about relative size to solve problems? Part a also ties in the use of inverse
trigonometric functions. Part c is meant to assess whether students can
apply the principles when there are no known quantities.

After Jack planted his magic beans, his neighbor Jill watched the beanstalk grow.
When the top of the beanstalk was at her eye level (5 feet), Jill began tracking the
growth of the beanstalk from a stationary position of 21 feet from the base of the
beanstalk. After 133 seconds, she noted that the beanstalk reached the first cloud
and estimated that her line of sight was at an angle of 0.8 radians with respect to
her line of sight parallel the ground. Begin by drawing a diagram of the situation
and label each known and unknown quantity.

a. How tall was the beanstalk 133 seconds after Jill began tracking the growth of the
beanstalk?
b. How fast did the beanstalk grow, given that the beanstalk grew vertically at a
constant rate of change of height with respect to time.

c. Define a function, k, that relates the height h of the beanstalk above the ground
in terms of the angle (measured in radians) of Jill's line of sight with respect to the
ground as she watched the top of the stalk grow.
*This problem is an extension of the concepts, as well as a review of
others such as constant rate of change, and writing a rule for a function. It
also asks students to conceptualize a dynamic situation (line of sight
changing as height changes) and apply the concepts to that dynamic
situation.

The stadium light poles for a soccer field are located 25 feet from the sideline. The
lamp at the top of each 58 foot pole needs to be set at an angle upward from the
pole so that the center of the light beam hits the soccer field 34 feet inside the
sideline toward the center of the field. Begin by drawing a diagram of the situation
and label each known and unknown quantity.

a. At what angle (measured in degrees) should the lamp be set to meet the stated
conditions?
b. Based on the angle you found in part (a), if the measure of that angle increases
by 1 degree, what is the increase in the distance from the base of the pole to where
the center of the light hits the field?
*Another problem for extension of the concepts used.