# Fun Outdoor Trigonometry Experiments Part 1

As if adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing numbers AND letters (okay, variables) wasn't enough torture already, Mathematicians came up with trigonometry.

Trigonometry is, simply put, the study of triangles and the relationships of the sides and angles of these triangles. The subject seems easy enough for your unsuspecting students, and at first, going back to drawing triangles will seem fun if not easy. Then come the hard parts, and they will start to realize that trigonometry isn't JUST about triangles. After the triangles come the circles. After the circles come the waves. By that time, your students might already be swept away in the concepts and computations.

Just because trigonometry calls for drawings, graphs and calculations doesn't mean your students should be cooped up in the classroom. Here are some simple experiments you can do outside the class that can teach the concepts of trigonometry and show how Math does exist in the real world.

**Measuring Experiments**

The concepts of trigonometry, such as the Pythagorean Theorem and the sine functions, can be used to find measurements, right? So why leave the measuring to drawings on paper or illustrations on the blackboard?

- Get the heights of the structures or trees at your school grounds. You can also ask your students to measure during the activity if it is safe and feasible.
- Borrow measuring sticks from the laboratory for use in class.
- You can assign your students into groups and assign each group to a structure or tree.
- Ask them to each choose a distance between 2 meters to 5 meters (you can change this range) from the tree and record it.
- Let them compute the distance between them and the top of the structure or tree through the Pythagorean Theorem.
- You can opt to give them a problem to solve if you want. *Safety alert*
- Each group will choose a group member who will be situated at an elevated area in the school. Definitely not on the corrugated roof! Preferably just the 2nd floor.
- This group member will be given scissors, a coil of rope, measuring tape and golden bangles that can slide thru the rope. (You can make variations here, such as a small basket with an egg inside, stuff like that.)
- You will give the groups the height of the elevated area and several distances from the foot of the building. They will solve for the length of the rope needed to get the bangles (or any prized item you decided on). The goal is to get the right measurement of rope so that the "prized item" can safely traverse it, down to the waiting hands of the group members.
- Give it a twist and give them a pre-measured rope. Ask them to find at what distance they should stand from the building in order to safely receive the bangles/prized item.

**Rocket Experiment**

Rockets excite any learner! Imagine using it in Math class! A simple rocket experiment involves finding the height or zenith achieved by a rocket using Trigo, particularly the SOHCAHTOA.

- First, find a suitable rocket to use. Find out if your Science department has a water-powered rocket. You can also research for rocket alternative types of rockets. Find DIY tutorials for improvised rockets, such as using the much-documented Mentos-Coke superpower combo.
- For the experiment, you will also need measuring tapes or meter sticks and clinometers.
- You can do this as a class first then assign groups.
- Set up the rocket in the middle of a wide space, with no objects to hamper rocket flight. Make sure this is far away from the principal's office, lest you earn her ire if the rocket changes course.
- Choose a safe distance from the rocket setup. Measure the distance between that spot and the rocket.
- Pump the rocket or initiate its launch. Find the angle of elevation when the rocket reaches its peak or zenith using the clinometer.
- Record the data and compute for the height using the angle of elevation or incline.
- Give your students three tries for the experiment.
- Ask them how the following data relate to each other: distance from launch, angle of elevation, height. What will happen if you stand closer to the launch area? What data will change? These are awesome recaps for algebra, too.

**Discover more fun Trigonometry experiments you can do outdoors.**

(Many thanks to the creators of TheMathPage.com for the recap on Trigonometry lessons and to the moderators of TeachMaths-InThinking.co.uk for the inspiration. For Trigonometry teaching tools, check out Professor Steven Wilson's materials—cool animated graphs included—at http://staff.jccc.net/swilson/trig/index.htm.)

## 5 comments

Well done, Christine. Math has always come easy for me, but it can be difficult for many students to grasp. One of my neighbors sons, when I was living back in upstate New York, had a very hard time grasping the fundamental of Algebra until I showed him how mastering algebra and trigonometry would allow him to build beter radio control model airplanes, which was his hobby. I think that the best way to get a student really interested in learning any form of math is to show them how it applies to something that they are really interested in.

Good one Christine! - just down my alley - check out www.khamacademy.org for a maths revelation - it will blow your socks off!

Thanks everyone! When I was in high school, we didn't have these experiments and we had 3 Math subjects each year! Math can be interesting if teachers know how to integrate it with real-world situations and, yes, students' interests. Music, photography, you name it!