Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Lori, a parent:
I am an ex-math major turned home-schooling parent.
I would desperately like to find a word-problem based trigonometry book for my 17-year old son.
I don't want graphing or other gobbledy-gook that he'll never use. Does such a thing exist?


The various parts of trigonometry are interrelated; trying to get one without the other is a bit like trying to buy a car without paying for the greasy bits underneath that use up gas and antifreeze and you can't put your groceries in. You can change the stress a little, but graphing is an important part of developing an intuition for how trig functions behave - especially if your son is a visual-spatial thinker, as many boys (and a fair number of girls) are.

Another part of trig that people often wonder when they will use is the part on trigonometrical identities. While you can do basic applied ("word") problems without these, more advanced problems sometimes need trig identities to find a solution, and many more are made much easier by using them. If your son decides that he wants to do science in university, he will definitely need them.

So it's unlikely that any self-contained textbook will be entirely "word problems based". The book I would recommend for you is Schaum's Outline of Trigonometry. Still under $20 US, clear, well-written, and part of a series that the late, great, Gian-Carlo Rota described in a review as "the greatest textbook series ever"

But please don't skip bits (well, Chapter 15, on complex numbers could be skipped, but it is not only very nice stuff but also will be very useful to your son if he decides to go into physical sciences, engineering, or various technical trades.)

Good Hunting!
Robert Dawson

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