“When will I ever use this?” is one of the questions trigonometry teachers dread most. But there are some real-life applications of the concepts you are teaching in your classroom that can help put that question to rest.
Being able to make basic calculations with angles is a useful skill in many professions. Trigonometry plays an important role in music theory and production, for instance. In concert venues or studio recording spaces, the sound needs to be clear and balanced. That’s where trigonometry comes in. By measuring the angles of a building, it’s possible to create a recording or live performance that sounds more balanced to the listener.
When will I use trigonometry? If you’re involved with any aspect of the music industry, even the harmonics of individual notes may also be improved with a little bit of math. Whenever you hear music on the radio or play a chord on a guitar, you’re hearing a kind of sine wave. These waves oscillate at various frequencies, and changing the space between frequencies creates a new sound. By adding sine waves together, a pattern is created. Music production software makes it possible to manipulate these waves to create the ideal sound.
Trigonometry is also a necessary component of game design; in fact, video games wouldn’t exist as we know them without it. How characters and objects move in relation to one another can be calculated using trigonometry to measure the lengths of the angles between them. This is especially important when anything needs to move along a curved path or fly through the air. Without math, video games wouldn’t be very entertaining because nothing would move. Many of the math components remain the same throughout different programming languages, so knowing trigonometry can help you be fluent in all of them.
Other fields that make regular use of trigonometry skills include astronomy, which relies on light waves to detect the distance or movement between celestial bodies (a process known as parallax). By taking the diameter of the earth’s orbit and using it as a base, astronomers can determine how far other objects have shifted. Oceanography utilizes trigonometry for calculating the heights of tides and depth of water, and piloting a ship or an aircraft would be extremely difficult without devices and methods for navigation. When students ask, “When does anyone use trigonometry in real life?” the answer is probably more often than you think!
Looking for other ways to incorporate STEM into your classroom? Learn more about how students can develop their own video games by applying their trigonometry skills!