Lab 10 - Building a module

In the lecture this week we explored building a module named In this lab we will add another function to the module and learn a bit about how the computer figures out those funny trigonometric functions along the way. (Have not taken trig yet? Don’t worry, you will before you get out of this school!)

Computing the sine of an angle

Long ago, mathematicians wanted to calculate the trig functions that were needed to figure out how long the edges of triangle would be. Triangles were very useful, but they could come in many different shapes. For a right-triangle, one with two of the three edges coming into one corner 90 degrees from each other, they came up with a few formulas like this:


Now, in this class, we do not really care about all those funny functions like sin, cos, or even tan, but the relationships fascinated the math folks. Enough so that they started wondering how to calculate something like sin(x) (where x is the angle between the base and the edge leading up to the far corner). What they came up with is interesting as well. They discovered that if you computer the terms in a series of simple expressions and summed them up, you would get the value you were interested in. For the sin function, what they came up with was this:


The only problem with all this is that the angle between those two edges needs to be expressed in terms of something called radians. The formula for radians is this:

  • radians = degrees * PI / 180.0

That solves that problem!

Look closely at this series. There is a pattern in what we see. Let’s see if we can see the pattern:

  • The series is a sequence of simple terms combined together
  • After the initial x term, each part has x raised to an odd power starting with 3, and the power goes up by 2 each term.
  • The denominator is the factorial of the power!
  • The sign of the term alternates between plus and minus

The magnitude of each term gets smaller and smaller as we go, eventually heading toward zero. When it gets there, we will not really know

Could we come up with some code that generates this sequence, and use that code to build our own sin function? Of course we can!

Building the sin function for our mymath module

What you need to do is set up a loop that will compute each term (after the first one) adding in the new term. The problem we face is figuring out when to stop the calculations. For our experiments we will stop when the new term has a value less than 0.00000001. In order figure this out, we will need to generate four variables in our loop:

  • power
  • denominator
  • sign
  • term

The first one is easy, we just start off with a value of 2 and add two to the power each time we run through the loop. For the sign, we can use a statement like sign = - sign and start off with sign set to -1 to start. That will make the value flip between plus one and minus one. Finally the term is the angle (x - in radians) raised to the power and divided by the factorial part. We multiply that term by the sign and add it in to the result we are after. See how it works?

That leaves the factorial. Shoot, that looks like another function.

Factorial function

The factorial of 5 is 5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1 or 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5

A simple function to calculate the factorial looks like this:

def factorial(n):
    fact = n
    for val in range(1,n):
        fact = fact * val
    return fact

Does that look right?

Testing your code

Since we are building a module, you are to build a test program that uses your module and the real math module to see how well your code is doing. You should test the sin function over the range of angles from 0 to 360, in one degree increments. Look at the example code in the mymath module in the lecture to see how to get the real sin function in the math module to give you the real value and see if you are close. (You should be).

Your test program will need to import both your new module and the real math module:

import math
import mymath

We will discuss how Python finds these files in class.

What to turn in

You will end up building two files: