Saturday, September 7, 2013

Law of Sines

A few months ago, I posted the proof of the Law of Cosines, which is an extremely important aspect of trigonometry. If you do not know what sines and cosines are, it is a very easy concept. Click here to view the post discussing that (which is also the post with the proof of the Law of Cosines).

But this law only works if you are given all three sides of the triangle or two sides and the enclosed angle. What if you are given two sides and a non-enclosed angle, or two angles and one side (three angles isn't enough information to generate side lengths)? How could you approach this problem?

This is where you use the Law of Sines. This law goes as follows:

This was taught to me last year in school, and I immediately wondered what the proof was. Though the law of cosines one was a bit clunky, I found that this proof was quite simple and elegant. So, I thought that it would be great to share.

Since it would require many diagrams, I thought it would be easier to just watch a video of it. It is pretty short, and explains the proof well.

A big part of the reason why most of the cool stuff I post isn't taught in school is that it is not mandated in the curriculum or test standards. Of course, I do believe there are changes that need to be made to these (click here for my Capstone research paper explaining those). However, the Law of Sines is something already taught in school. Same with the Law of Cosines.

These proofs, especially the sine one, fit right into the curriculum. The Law of Sines is already being taught, so why not take an extra 5 minutes to explain the proof? Or even better, explain the basic thought process behind the proof and have the students generate the formula (which works really well for the Quadratic Formula as well). This increases the students' ability to understand and apply the concept, as well as making it fun and interesting. On top of that, the common core standards do want students able to "construct viable arguments," which is the whole purpose of proofs. I think that this proof is not only interesting, but shows that cool math stuff can be integrated into the classroom while keeping it relevant and obedient to the standards.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ethan,

    Thanks for your post and your video proof! I just wanted to let you know that I've linked to and recommended it in my latest post on my website about the Sine Law. You can view it here if you'd like: Thanks!