Trigonometry: Teaching concepts "out of order" and contextualizing content

Submitted by Becky Baranowski on

A prerequisite to physics is MAT182.  Students need to know law of sine/cosine, and vector concepts from trig to be successful in physics.  In the past, I would spend a lot of time classify triangles (SSS, ASA, etc) to help students know which "law" to use, and this was done at the end of the semester.  I did not spend time using law of sine/cosine with vector applications .  Students typically scored a low B on law of sine/cosine problems.   In F17, I taught the "laws" and incorporated vectors in week 4 to show students real life applications.  I had a "drill/kill" day where students were at the boards solving vector application problems.  Zero time was spent classifying triangles.  Students had to set up the equations for both "laws", then determine which one was the most useful to solve the triangle.   100% of the students received 5/5 on the law of sine problem.  60% of the students received 5/5 on the vector law of cosine application with the remaining 40% having the correct idea. I will definitely incorporate all these activities in my trig class again.


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Average: 4.4 (5 votes)


Becky Baranowski Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:24pm

Note:  I also had students do a journal this semester.  Students have to explain, in great detail, how to do problems.  Students must summarize the day's events, provide examples with explanations, and include any questions they may still have.  This is my first semester incorporating journals.  I will be submitting another CATS on my experience with journals this semester.  

Olga Tsoudis Tue, 11/14/2017 - 5:08am

Becky and Dwain, This is an intersting CATS. You had successful results after making changes plus you included journal writing. I especially like that you included real life examples. It would be interesting to see what those examples are so we can learn more on how math is connected to the real world. We know it is but I want to learn more about  it. :)  I am looking forward to the analysis of the journals. Thank you for sharing, Olga

Teri Graham Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:23pm

Becky and Dwain, thank you for your continued innovative ideas to stregthen our STEM students.  I look forward to seeing the CATS of your journals since I use them in my classes and am hoping there are some ideas I can steal :-)