my favorite: trig tale


I originally chose to teach math because I thought that it’d be so cut-and-dry, with one right answer for everything. Eight years later, I find myself looking for ways to assess that have multiple right answers. A recent conversation with two of my best college friends reminded me of that, and led me to pick trig tale for my favorite. One of those friends is a German teacher, and she likes to give open-ended quiz questions that are unlike the typical matching ones. In a recent class, some students got quite agitated at the question “How was your last report card of freshman year?” One student said “but what do you want me to say? that the report card was good?” because she hadn’t studied for that (and probably couldn’t ask fellow students “so what’d you get for number 5?” after class). My friend could tell if they knew the vocabulary if the response made sense, and would have been fine with multiple answers. Another best (but non-teacher friend) piped up and said that in one of her favorite high school English classes, you could get 100% on any paper as long as you could justify your reasoning.

That’s why I like to do these projects in spite of the bigger grading effort that they require. Sometimes students protest the open-ended nature of this and claim they want to just do math problems instead, but they end up getting really into the story lines and figuring how to use the trig in ways that advance the story well. My mentor teacher used this during my student teaching year, and I find that creativity and fairy tales stand the test of time even as technology permeates ever more of the classroom. Though I do appreciate the many ways this could be done on the computer, sometimes it’s just fun to kick it old-school with construction paper and crayons.


The Description

The goal of this project is to have you develop a creative fairy tale that shows your understanding of the trigonometry skills from this unit. You may work with 1 or 2 classmates to outline the story, draft it, and illustrate it in class.

1) Unit Skills (32 points)

Your trig tale must demonstrate the following skills (4 points each, similar to quiz rubric).

Right Triangle Word Problems:
1. Find Missing Angle in Right Triangle
2. Find Missing Side in Right Triangle
3. Find Missing Angle in 3-D Figure
4. Find Missing Side in 3-D Figure

Oblique Triangle Word Problems
5. Apply Sine Rule to Find Missing Angle
6. Apply Sine Rule to Find Missing Side
7. Apply Cosine Rule to Find Missing Angle
8. Apply Cosine Rule to Find Missing Side

2) Writing, Illustrations, and Organization (22 points)

Elements of Fairy Tales (from
– Set in the past—usually significantly long ago. May be presented as historical fact from the past.
– Include fantasy, supernatural or make-believe aspects.
– Typically incorporate clearly defined good characters and evil characters.
– May include objects, people, or events in threes.
– Focus the plot on a problem or conflict that needs to be solved.
– Often have happy endings, based on the resolution of the conflict or problem.
– Usually teach a lesson or demonstrate values important to one’s culture.

The Rubric: TrigTaleRubric


  • Chad T. Lower

    This sounds like a really fun project! Maybe next time you do it, ask you student for permission to post their work (anonymously, of course). I’d like to see some of their ideas.

    An old trick I used to do with these projects is ask the students of the *best* projects if I could keep their project to show next year’s class. Then when I did this again next year, I would show the sample projects and say that there were in the “middle of the pack,” which often got them to exceed the “best” from last year.

    • Kristina

      Hmm, I will probably debut it soon with 9th grade! Thanks for the suggestion to save and share with permission…it would be great to have them digitally archived. I like the idea of having them exceed the past “middle of the pack”…just got to make sure they don’t limit their own creativity if they see a past one, find it good, and want to replicate.

    • Kristina

      It is usually about a week (followed by a unit test)–I do find it valuable, especially after modifying it to be a group project (working on those social and interpersonal skills). It’s also helping me practice giving feedback.

  • Kari

    What a great idea! I was just talking with some people the other day about how some students freak out with open-ended questions. I think it’s important for them to be exposed to all kinds of projects and quizzes and opportunities. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers