Trigonometry and Calculus

Why do those two words bring fear to the minds of most people?

Have you ever had a trigonometry course or a calculus course? If you were a science or math major in college then you almost certainly have taken those courses! Did you like learning that type of math? Was it fun for you or does it evoke bad memories?

Hopefully if you’ve had those courses, they were fun for you. I was thinking about that as I was reading this article I found below.  It briefly describes the history of trigonometry and calculus. Hope you enjoy it!


Discovering Trigonometry
Trigonometry is a category of mathematics that studies triangles, as well as the spatial relationships between triangle sides and degree angles between these sides. Trigonometry is used to define trigonometric functions.

Trigonometric functions describe the relationships between the angles and sides and are also applied to cyclical phenomena, such as waves.

Trigonometry itself is very similar to geometry, but is slightly more complex. It utilizes functions such as sine, cosine and tangent to analyze areas of angles. These and other functions of trigonometry are used in a variety of career fields including but not limited to: acoustics, architecture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, computer graphics, metrology, medical imaging, music theory and several other fields.

Trigonometry is taught starting in middle and high school. It can be taught as a separate course, but is also taught as a preliminary course for calculus. Trigonometry develops student’s knowledge of both pure and applied mathematics. College level trigonometry is required for several different career majors to help students develop a further understanding of angles and spatial relationships.

Trigonometry was first developed in the 2nd century BC by the Greek mathematician Hipparchus. Hipparchus developed what is known as the first trigonometric table. He used trigonometry, and other mathematical functions, to develop lunar and solar theories. He also used trigonometry to study the motion and orbit of the sun and moon. Though trigonometry was developed by Hipparchus, the study of triangles can be traced all the way back to Egyptian mathematics and Babylonian mathematics.

The Egyptians and Babylonians used trigonometry to develop theorems on ratios of triangle sides. The Babylonian astronomers used early trigonometry to measure the angular distances on the celestial sphere. They used this to detail records of rising and setting stars, planet motions, and solar and lunar eclipses.

During the Hellenistic period, the Greeks took the early Egyptian and Babylonian trigonometry and developed the chord, which developed the use of arcs. A chord of a circle is the geometric line segment whose endpoints are on the circle’s circumference. The chord joins two points on any curve, but it is not limited to an ellipse. The chord that passes through the center point of the circle also functions as the circle’s diameter.

The trigonometry that is currently used today was developed by European mathematicians, Sir Isaac Newton and James Stirling in the 17th century. Newton and Stirling created the general formulas that are currently used to solve trigonometric functions.
By: Dennis McLynn
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Dennis McLynn is the Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Business Development for High Points Learning. HighPoints Learning (HPL) is a leader in Web-based math education and instruction. HPL offers an online math tutoring program that helps raise participants’ math scores an average of 15 points in pre and post testing. HighPoints Learning services the 3-12 grade market. For more information visit:

So with all of this history under your belt, you’re ready to go hit the trig books right?  😉

Have a great day!

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