CCHS Students use pasta to create sinusoid waves

By WENDY SLEDD

Special to Leader-Press

 

Copperas Cove High School students enjoyed pasta in their classes on Friday. But, they were not eating it. They were actually solving math problems.

Students in the pre-calculus classes of Teachers James Buzzard and Donna Brewer laid out fettucine pasta to create sinusoidal waves. The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It is named after the function sine, of which it is the graph. It occurs often in pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields.

In the project, students can see the unit circle being deconstructed and made into a circular function. It gives the student an opportunity to create the sine waves in a hands-on manner using pasta, Buzzard said.

“There is an infinite amount of equations and vertical and horizontal stretch,” he said. “But now that these students have made math out of noodles, they will be able to apply this same exercise when they go on to calculus.”

With boxes of open pasta scattered through eight tables across the room, students plotted out the wave snapping noodles in different measurements to create the length of the wave. Senior Ryan Aldrich, 17, found the exercise quite enlightening.

“You are really taking a 360 degree circle and using noodles to create the co-sign on the ‘x’ axis horizontally to indicate degrees on the circle and we do this twice around,” Aldrich said. “It ends up being a really cool wave. It’s very much like graphing it.”

Aldrich said the most challenging thing about the project was actually breaking the pasta into the correct length pointing to one noodle on his graph paper that was a tiny bit too short.

“This is certainly an interesting twist and something different,” he said. “I’ve never done this before. I am used to actually drawing it.”

Unlike Aldrich who said math was one of the subjects he excelled in, Senior Megan Dennis, 18, described herself as “not good at math.”

“This helped me visualize degrees better. I am a visual person and this helps me through math. It makes it easier to understand,” said Dennis who wants to be a fashion designer and is also enrolled in Advanced Fashion Design. “We use a lot of math in sewing and making our clothes measuring the waist, sleeves and garment length. We use circles and various patterns. So, I can see how I can use this in real life.”

This is the second year Buzzard has used the pasta method in his pre-calculus class and said it was very illuminating for students and increased their understanding more quickly of the concept of measuring wave patterns occurring in nature such as ocean waves, sound waves, and light waves. 

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