by Dick Ferry
A college townee
gets to his desk at home
trigonometry in a quiet room
with a #2 pencil in an empty house
and all those lonely squares on graph paper
tangent, sine and cosine at their worst.
Most people have negative feelings towards trigonometry. We can’t even bring ourselves to use the whole word. We almost always shorten it to “trig” to avoid four of the five syllables in an attempt to make it seem more affable. The Onion created an article, Nation’s Math Teachers Introduce 27 New Trig Functions last month which garnered much attention from the mathematics community. The Onion decided that the best way to make mathematics more terrifying is to add more trig functions. Because, to an untrained eye, those relationships are totally bogus. But here’s the incredible truth:
In reality, some these functions used to exist. For real! In an article by Evelyn Lamb, Evelyn reveals that there is some truth to The Onion’s article. In 10 Secret Trig Functions Your Math Teachers Never Taught You she outlines a few of the functions and why they were useful. (hint: It has to do with old school trig tables and round off error.) So, the next time you wonder, “Why did I ever had to learn all those horrible functions and their identities?” remember that it used to be worse. It used to be four times worse.