I set a goal to start eliminating questions from my Pre-Cal assessments that could be defeated with modern tools. Sketching variations on sin x and cos x were the first target. Nowadays we write about them:

Next on the list is special angle trig, you know what I mean:

I do like these questions if you spend time emphasizing the role of right triangles in the unit circle (the aforementioned trig diagram in the instructions). Students will spend some time thinking about what the ratio is supposed to be and simplify it. However, this year I placed an emphasis on recognizing the decimal equivalents for these ratios (sqrt(3)/2 being approximately 0.866 for example). In theory these questions are defeated pretty quickly by a calculator.

I did like what I got from a discussion question about how right triangles played a role at 90º:

I suspect I could extend this more when it comes to evaluating sin 60º. How are you arriving at that answer? How are you interpreting the diagram to make that conclusion?

Pre-Cal is such a delicate balance of explanation and drill. Students have seen enough big kid math to start putting some previously distant ideas together, yet you want them to be good at the bare mechanics of it all too.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon