ATLANTA, GA – Though primary care physician (PCP) Evelyn Waters asked patient Phillip Rose how he was doing with lifestyle changes in regards to his metabolic syndrome, the patient has instead gone off on a long-winded tangent. A tangent about what? Sines and cosines of all things.
“In a right-angle triangle, do you know what is the sine of 35 degrees if the side opposite the angle has a length of 4 and the hypotenuse has a length of 5?” Rose asked Waters.
“I’m afraid you’re not answering my question,” responded Waters, thrown off by his answer. “I think you’re off on a tangent.”
“I’m not asking you about a tangent,” responded Rose, a high-school mathematics teacher. “I’m asking you about the sine, the sine of 35 degrees in a right-angle… Fine, maybe you don’t like sines.”
“I do like signs, medical signs,” Waters reassured his patient.
“Well, how about cosines?” asked Rose. “What is the cosine of 35 degrees if the side adjacent to the angle has a length of 3 and the hypotenuse has a length of 5?”
Waters remained confused, unable to follow his patient’s thought process. “I’m sorry to say, but I still think you’re on a tangent.”
“I beg to differ,” responded Rose before correcting her. “A tangent involves the ratio of the length of the side opposite the angle in question to the length of the side adjacent to the angle in question. If anything, I think you don’t understand basic trigonometry.”
For several moments, Rose and Waters sat in uncomfortable silence.
“How about I refill your medications and I see you in a month?” began Waters.
“Sounds great,” responded Rose, gathering his belongings. “In the meantime, brush up on your math. Next appointment I plan on talking to you about asymptotes and the Pythagorean theorem.”