What Do Triangles Have to Do with the Sun?
By: Robert Reyes
In our Diploma Programme Math Studies class at Roberto Clemente Community Academy, we have been discussing triangles and how to measure angles in real-life instances. One specific triangle we examined closely was the right triangle and its calculations. We‘ve been measuring triangles in the classroom (including a comparison of widescreen TVs), but last week we took our calculations outside. For the activity, we formed our own right triangles using our bodies, the sun, and our shadows on the ground.
We were tasked with finding the angle of elevation of the sun. In order to find the angle of elevation, we had to first discover the adjacent and opposite angles of our triangle; these were the most important measurements. We did all we had to do to complete our calculations.
We paired ourselves off before going forward with the activity. It’s hard to measure your shadow without moving, obviously, so we used meter sticks to measure our height and shadow length in inches. Measuring precisely was difficult because it was very windy that day, and the wind blew some of our papers and our meter sticks kept moving.
Next, we had to measure ourselves again sometime later in the day. The purpose of this was to see how the sun moves, causing the angle of elevation to change. We then had to compare the two measurements and analyze how it changed.
But what do triangles have to do this this? We have been studying triangles this past unit in Ms. Zuniga’s class. Specifically, we have learned about cosine, sine, tangent, and how to calculate missing sides and angles. There are lots of things to learn about when it comes to triangles, and there are lots of ways this triangle knowledge is useful in everyday life. For us, the shadow activity is a lasting memory that will help us remember the important concepts for right triangles.