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How to work with Trigonometry

Trigonometry, like many areas of Maths and Science, was founded by an Ancient Greek mathematician. However, to continue our history of Mathematics we must travel even further back in time!

One of the oldest mathematical tablets ever discovered is the Sumerian multiplication tablet. This dates from around 2600 B.C.

Containing three columns, dots in the first two columns represent distances which range from 6m to 3km. Basically, the final column is the product of the first two  – thus providing the area of a rectangle with the dimensions given in the first two columns.

Taking a jump from the Stone Age and into the beginning of the Bronze Age, we find a Babylonian tablet known as Plimpton 322.  Created around 1750 B.C.  this tablet is more than 1000 years older than Pythagoras. Amazingly, the table imprinted onto the tablet contains Pythagorean triplets. In other words, solutions for a² + b² = c².  Jumping forwards a little in time, tablets dating from between 1800 and 1600 B.C show working out to calculate the area of different shapes, for example trapeziums and circles.

Surprisingly, these ancient tablets clearly demonstrate they were able to calculate square roots. They even estimated the square root of 2 accurately to 6 decimal places!!

GCSE scientists – if you need help using trigonometry, try our new guide “How to work with Trigonometry”. It includes an explanation of how to find lengths of missing sides, or the size of a missing angle. As always it includes questions to try, and answers to check your understanding.



Come back and check our blog page for more resources to help you improve your understanding of different topics in various subjects.  New Maths and Science guides will be coming soon. Our journey through the history of maths will also continue.

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