first line from “Circles” by Anais Koivisto

I dream in circles
The trigonometric unit circle
sin Θ, cos Θ, tan Θ
So much work
π, π/2, 3π/2, 2π
The flavor of pi that doesn’t go well in the oven,
or in my stomach
So much more to be discovered
Uncovered in each of the 360 degrees
Square toots and squares
Opposite over adjacent
Don’t get too close
Or the unit circle will wheel its way into
Your dreams as well
Thank you so much.

Brehana Hawkins
Second Place 9th and 10th grades
LA Writes! 2008
University Lab School
Baton Rouge, LA


For a Math Classroom

Lesson Plans for Brehana Hawkins’ “Beware”
by Jerome White

The writer tells of the unit circle wheeling its way into her dreams (Note her clever word choice of “wheel”). When things wheel their way into our dreams, it can be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. How would you characterize the writer’s emotional response to her unit circle dreams?

Imagine that you find trigonometry, or math in general, constantly dominating your conscious and unconscious thoughts (Oh, you should be so fortunate!) In what ways can this be positive? In what ways is this not a good thing?

Line 6 includes a common play on the word “pi” vs. “pie”. What other words that you’ve studied in trigonometry (or geometry… or algebra…) lend themselves to word play? (homonyms, homophones). Pick one and write a line in the same vein as the “pi” line that expresses your emotional experience with math.

Pick five lines in this poem and graph each one as follows: x-value represents the syllable, y-value represents 0 for an unstressed syllable and 1 for a stressed syllable. For example, if the fifth syllable is stressed, you would plot the point (5, 1). Are any of these graphs periodic? Are they written in an iambic pattern? For a line written in iambic pentameter, write the equation of a sinusoid that would pass through all of the graphed points.

Write the number of syllables in each line. One could debate how many syllables are in the lines with mathematical symbols, but count them in the way that makes the most sense to you and be able to defend your answer. Do you find any kind of pattern? Do you think it’s even possible to write an equation that gives the number of syllables as a function of the line number? (You are not asked to actually do so unless you really love a tremendous challenge!) How would you generally describe the trend in words?

This poem does not rhyme. Nonetheless, pick three trigonometry vocabulary words and for each one, write three words that rhyme with it. Pick your favorite pair of rhyming words (one of which must be the trig vocab word) and write a clever or humorous couplet. Be sure both lines of the couplet are written in the same meter.

Variation: Perform the previous exercise utilizing alliteration instead of rhyming. While your couplet need not rhyme this time, still use the same meter for both lines. Each line must have at least three alliterative words in it.

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