No One Likes Trigonometry

I’ve never met a non-mathematician who likes the subject, and I’ve met only a few mathematicians who do. Even in the latter case, I suspect it has more to do with later learning of Fourier analysis and the like, rather than their first exposure to the class. I have no scientific data on the matter, but I suspect it’s rather high on the list of least liked mathematical topics, a list already full of disliked material.

The trigonometric functions seem enigmatic or even artificial. Among students, the belief that these functions were invented by mathematics teachers to torture students is probably not uncommon. It doesn’t help that when learning integrals, trigonometric functions are handy to make interesting (and therefore, difficult) integrals to solve later on.

My opinion on the matter is that the toolkit approach to algebra and trigonometry ironically makes the material seem less useful than if they came up more organically. The approach we seem to have in teaching trigonometry is to introduce the main functions, and then scrounge up some problems that can serve as applications. By coming up “organically”, I mean that it might be better served to teach a course on geometry which eventually leads to material that can’t be tackled without introducing the machinery of trigonometric functions. This approach might make trigonometry appear more natural in geometry and provide some context for how it is applied.


About minimalrho
Unemployed guy with a PhD in math.

One Response to No One Likes Trigonometry

  1. Pingback: Should We Replace Trigonometry with Basic Complex Geometry? | minimalrho

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