Trigonometry Lesson: Word Problem Activity


In this trigonometry lesson, students will create and illustrate their own right triangle trigonometry word problem. 

Do your students hate word problems? Mine certainly do. In fact, a lot of my students see a word problem and shut down before even reading it. And even though my students probably think I love torturing them (cue evil laugh) with challenging problems,  I really don’t. If my students are miserable while learning a topic, then I’m miserable too!

This is why I wanted a better way to teach word problems. I created this activity to help students take ownership of their learning. I use this activity after I have taught trigonometry word problems and completed 4-5 problems with students. 

Depending on the class, I let students work in partners or individually. I give each student or pair of students a rubric with student instructions. 


These are the requirements for this mini-project:

1. Word Problem

In the first part of this trigonometry lesson, students write out their word problem. This might seem obvious, but students ALWAYS ask me, “Do we have to write out the word problem?” They might just want to draw the picture, but I like seeing their creativity in the word problem.

I tell them they can use the word problems in their notes as well as the internet for inspiration only. They are not allowed to copy. The students must create a scenario that involves a right triangle with a side or angle (or both) missing. 


2. Picture

Next, students must draw a picture of the scenario in the word problem.  I encourage them to draw the actual scenario and not just a right triangle. This might be difficult for the less artistic students, but I ask that they at least try. 

Once they draw their picture, they should label it with the information from the word problem including angles, sides, and the missing piece. 

The picture is always my favorite part of this trigonometry lesson. I’m always so impressed by how creative my students are!


3. Work

After students draw their picture, they need to use sine, cosine, or tangent to solve for the missing angle or side. I ask them to show all steps so that other students can see their work. 

Another idea is to have students put their work and answer on the back of the page. Then, have students do a gallery walk and solve the other students’ problems. They can check their work after they solve. I love this activity because the students become the teachers. 

Trigonometry Word Problem

4. Answer

Students must put the correct answer with the correct units. Again, if you do a gallery walk, have students put their work and answer on the back of the paper. 


After all students have completed their word problems, I hang them in the hallway outside my door. Students love having their work displayed in the hallways! They’re always so proud of their work. 


I hope you like this trigonometry lesson! Please let me know how it goes if you use it in your classroom! If you’re interested in another fun trigonometry activity, check it out here!

If you enjoy project-based learning, check out this post about geometry projects



Happy Teaching!


If you want to learn more about creating your own engaging resources, head to LindsayBowden.com/Training to sign up for my FREE training!




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