Guest Post: Calculating Trignometric Values

Many students who start to learn Trigonometry often ask themselves how do we come to know that

\sin 30^\circ = \frac{1}{2} or \cos 45 ^\circ = \frac{\sqrt{2}}{2}

or for that matter any other trigonometric value?

Most of us would say use a trigonometric table or use a scientific calculator and you get the value. That’s okay, but the question still remains unanswered. How does a calculator come to know that \tan 15^\circ = 0.26794919... or how did the mathematicians create the entire trig tables when calculators were not invented? There should be some formula that tells us as to how the values are calculated. More importantly, can I, using a standard calculator, find the approximate value of let’s say \sin 50.5^\circ? Yes, there is a simple formula to find the value of sine of any acute angle. Though the formula does not give accurate results, it comes handy to know the value of \sin \theta  where 0^\circ \leq \theta \leq 90^\circ.

 \sin x ^\circ = \frac{4x(180 - x)}{40500 - x(180 - x)}.

This rational approximate formula was discovered by Bhaskara I of India in the seventh century. This simple formula enables us to calculate the sine of any given acute angle (any even obtuse angle) with a maximum absolute error of 0.00163.  Continue reading

Math and Multimedia turns 7!

Math and Multimedia turns 7 today. I started this blog as a hobby but now it has grown into more than a thousand posts.  Recently, it has been recognized as one of the top 100 math blogs for students and math teachers.

In the past few weeks, you have probably observed that fewer posts were made. This is because I am currently studying (again). I’ll do my best though to post at least once a week.

Future Plans

I have already several posts lined up for the coming weeks but below are some of the changes that you will see soon:

  • More interactive posts (using applets)
  • A shift the focus from middle school mathematics to high school mathematics particularly Precalculus and Calculus
  • GeoGebra Tutorials and Pages updates
  • More apps,  games, and resources

Explore Math and Multimedia

In case you have not explored Math and Multimedia before, you may want to visit the following pages:  Continue reading

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