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)!

~ Kristen


About Three Handed Mommy

Mother of one, wife to one. Hoping for more children in the future but so far I'm a three handed mommy. One hand is in school, another in loving my family, the last is on here (and all that comes with it). I love origami and I doodle once in a blue moon. Maybe I will share some drawings, both old and new. I have a slight obsession with Hatake Kakashi, Batman, rubber duckies, pandas, and Pokemon. Then again, my obsession may prove to be more than slight on more than one occassion...don't judge. :P Since this is new and all to me, please bear with me while I find my rhythm and posting habits. Hope you enjoy what I put up here! Feel free to pin anything unless stated otherwise in a post. :)

Posted on March 9, 2014, in Math and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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