The origin of conversational tangents
Remember when I wanted to tell you about where the term tangent came from? Well today is the day!
I had this amazing math teacher my senior year. Lucky enough, she stuck around for that long. She ended up retiring after I graduated. So one class we were learning about tangent lines- ya know, the lines that show slope at any given point on the curve. Ring any bells?
Well imagine a circle. And then read my not-so-well drawn comic. There aren’t so many words spoken as scribbly mess, but the point gets across!
So basically it goes like this:
You’re talking to your friend about calculus and stuff. The topic goes in a circle (or at least it should) because you are talking about the the same thing the whole time, calculus. You go on and on about how great it is- trig, triangles, area between curves, optimization, the list goes on and on. Your friend is, of course, sooooo interested! You talk about positive numbers and how 0 is technically neither positive nor negative then all of a sudden you think of something related, but not quite on topic. Oh, I don’t know, computer science. Your circle starts to extend a line (this is where your conversation is now going…). But have no fear, you soon realize you are off topic and try to remember what it was you were just talking about. “Right! Hyperbolics!” You’ve now come back full circle, but your friend may have had enough.
And that’s where the term tangent comes from! Older kids may understand so much better after they’ve learned about tangent lines already. Go ahead, impress them! You remember tangent lines (a little)!