Is there a way to get trig functions without a calculator?

In school, we just started learning about trigonometry, and I was wondering: is there a way to find the sine, cosine, tangent, cosecant, secant, and cotangent of a single angle without using a calculator?

Sometimes I don’t feel right when I can’t do things out myself and let a machine do it when I can’t.

Or, if you could redirect me to a place that explains how to do it, please do so.

My dad said there isn’t, but I just had to make sure.



Congratulations! You’ve stumbled in to a very interesting question!

In higher mathematics, we often notice that some things which are really easy to talk about but difficult to express rigorously have a property which is really easy to express rigorously but something that we probably wouldn’t have thought of to begin with.

The trig functions are one of these things. With (a lot of) effort, you can show that

\sin x = x – \frac{x^3}{6} + \frac{x^5}{120} – \frac{x^7}{5040} + \frac{x^9}{362880} – \cdots

where the patterns of increasing the powers of x by 2, and switching between + and signs continues forever. (The denominators also have a pattern: take the power that x is raised to in the term and multiply it by all of the smaller numbers down to 1; that is the number in the denominator). Note that you have to use radians for this exact formula to work; of course you could come up with one for degrees as well.

When you start realizing that circles are actually quite tricky objects to define, formulas like that one start to look more appealing. I have had multiple mathematics textbooks take this infinitely long expression as the definition of the sine function. (It turns out to be the same thing as the circle definition, but… well, circles get complicated.)

Of course, we can’t sit around multiply and add for the rest of our lives just to compute sin 1, but we can just cut off the operations after a couple terms. If you go out to the x^7 term, you can guarantee that your answer is accurate to at least 3 decimal places as long as you use angles between -\frac{\pi}{2} and \frac\pi 2. (These are the only angles you really need, if you get rid of multiples of \pi properly.)

The cosine formula, in case you are interested, is similar:
\cos x = 1 – \frac{x^2}{2} + \frac{x^4}{24} – \frac{x^6}{720}+ \frac{x^8}{40320}-\cdots

The internet has formulas for the other trig functions, but you can always just combine these.

As copper.hat says, there are also these large books where people did the calculations once and wrote them down so that nobody would have to do them again. Of course, these were made long before computers existed; nobody makes them anymore! But somebody from your parents’ or grandparents’ generation probably still has one sitting in their house.

Source : Link , Question Author : Jonathan Lam , Answer Author : Eric Stucky

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