Is being good at trig a must?


I am currently a high school student very interested in studying architecture in college. I attempted to take trig but ended up dropping out of it to take pre calc instead. I have very little understanding of trig and was wondering if that could hurt my chances of being successful in college and in my career as an architect.

Mar 28, 17 11:35 am

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never used trigonometry once.

Mar 28, 17 12:02 pm

From my experience, pre-calculus involves a little bit of trigonometry. It is not so useful for design studios, but it can be useful for some required structural systems and building technology electives. Most of the calculations for these intro courses are for right angles anyway so the basics should be enough.

Mar 28, 17 12:11 pm

You don't have to be great at it but you do have to take the class. I am an architect and have also tutored in trig and pre-calc too. Math teachers make it harder than it should be, believe me. Unit circle - let me tell you, this is a very cool thing and everything is based on that. 

Mar 28, 17 12:51 pm

Yes you have to take trig, I just passed trig a few semesters ago and I am in pre-calculus. I know this sounds crazy but pre calculus is easier than trig to me, then again I studied the Sh*t out of calculus before I actually took it. You are going to have to take physics and I think there is some more. For engineering I got a crap load of calculus courses. 

Mar 28, 17 3:26 pm

I remember using trig on several occasions in practice, now that you mention it.  Not common, but it happens.  Take the class, pass it, get it over with.  Good luck!

Mar 28, 17 3:51 pm
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Yes because it trains a part of your brain that is necessary for thinking even if you do not use it on an every day basis. I cant imagine you can script if you do not understand the logic in math...

Mar 28, 17 4:18 pm

Reason why pre-law take alot of math classes


You will find trig much more "user friendly" than algebra, imo. And it will carry over that attitude into calculus. Tell yourself it is all very easy because it is. Those who don't study is who have a hard time. Make the right first step and the rest is easy, and study it from the getgo.


You'll actually enjoy it.

Mar 28, 17 4:22 pm

I nearly flunked trig in high school, and never took pre-calc or calculus at all during either my BA degree or MArch degree. Somehow I managed to pass my Structural Systems ARE on my first try, and none of the projects I've been involved with in my professional career have collapsed. An intuitive understanding of structural concepts is far more important than knowing how to solve formulas.

Mar 28, 17 4:27 pm

Totally agree with David Cole. 

Non Sequitur

David I barely passed high-school math and even retook one course (probably Trig) over the summer. But I got straight As in my civil and structure courses once in arch school. You should see the faces of the prospective student's parents when I gave interviews or school tours when I told them I barely passed most of high-school. Take that snobby miss 98% average.


thus hence s=r*(theta)

Mar 28, 17 4:31 pm

I made a career out of Trig when I was working on B52 Simulators -

Mar 28, 17 7:13 pm

Love Shack baaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyybbbbbbbbbeeeeeeeeeeeee


I use a fair amount of math on a regular basis, including trig and algebra. Maybe because I'm a designer and I integrate lots of math stuff into my design approach (proportional and geometric relationships especially).

I've never really used calculus in a professional capacity. But everything else, yes.

Mar 29, 17 12:04 pm


Mar 29, 17 1:21 pm

All you need to know is who to befriend and suck up to, the only math you need is to make sense of your Excel sheets.

Mar 29, 17 2:32 pm

Nope, wasn't required at my university, but I did take it.  Turned out useful for figuring out tree heights during site evals, but that's about it.

Mar 29, 17 3:07 pm

I don't think it's really that important. But as a student who enjoyed learning math, I definitely find that it makes me more sensitive about certain elements of design.

Mar 30, 17 8:42 pm

trig knowledge is very useful especially for complex geometry and scripting (plumbers and builder know it well - the good ones). pre-calc is better than a trig only course as you don't get bugged down with too much trig theory. a trig course is useful if you want to continue with higher level calculus courses. for me trig and higher level calculus course paid off - I like math though.

Mar 30, 17 9:53 pm
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Seriously - knowing trig is great for Statics - if it doesn't make sense algebraically, then use trig - Trig is necessary to calculate total loads in your summations esp for trusses, any kind of braced situation consisting of angular members - also you will need it for Grasshopper and Dynamo when coding up functions

Apr 2, 17 7:46 pm

Since when is creating excuses for NOT knowing something a good thing? I mean seriously- do you know how stupid that sounds, especially when comparing architecture practice and academic requirements around the world? Knowing something, even if not used in professional practice, is ALWAYS a good thing. The fact that you can pass the structural systems exam without knowing any math scares the living shit out me. It is a commentary on how easy it has become to become an architect and blaze our profession has become to any sort of academic standards. Sorry- academic excellence in architecture is not just about how hard one worked in studio. It is how well-rounded and proficient that student was in a multitude of classes that have to do with architecture. The ancient greeks would roll over in their graves if they knew people ever questioned the imporantance of trig in architecture. Shame on you all...

Apr 3, 17 7:01 am

well I do know that if I was on a bus stop and a guy walked up and pulled a gun on me and ask for my wallet or the formula to find the arc length I would walk away with my wallet.


I also knew that before the movie straight outa Compton that ice cube was with another group before joing NWA, but that hasnt profited me much


This past weekend I visited Thomas Jefferson's second home in Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Va,


How could you even begin to appreciate the genius of this place without an understanding of trigonometry? We are talking about the basic building blocks of being an educated person.

Apr 3, 17 3:08 pm

terrible architecture by a politician - I bet Trump would come up with something similar if left to his own devices


Here you go: A family is considering building a house. They are looking at a rectangular house 70 ft by 50 ft or 3,500 sq feet of floor space. If they build an octagonal house with the same amount of exterior wall and foundation footage how much interior floor space will the octagonal house have?

Apr 3, 17 9:10 pm

No takers? The answer is that using the same amount of linear foundation and exterior walls, the octagonal house will have 4,343 square feet of floor space to the 3,500 square feet of the 50 by 70 foot rectangular house, or 24% more space. It would be more efficient to heat and cool as well.

Apr 5, 17 5:44 pm

I'm not trying to discount any argument that trig is important to learn, but your example isn't using trig. You could answer your question by taking a course in geometry.


e=mc boring


I don't know how you did it, or if you did it, but I certainly did use trig in calculating the floor space. How would you do it quickly otherwise? How else would you compute the distance from the center of the hexagon to the midpoint of a wall?

Apr 5, 17 6:45 pm

You could use trigonometry to solve the problem, yes ... but it isn't necessary. You also wouldn't need to "compute the distance from the center of the hexagon to the midpoint of a wall." Mainly because your house is an octagon rather than a hexagon, but also because you could solve for the area using the radius or the length of a side using trigonometry rather than needing to compute the apothem.

Allow me to walk you through it:

  • Find the perimeter of the rectangular house. 2(70 feet) + 2(50 feet) = 240 feet.
  • Find the length of the side, 's', of a regular octagon with the same perimeter length as the rectangle. s = 240 feet / 8 sides = 30 feet.
  • Find the area of a regular octagon with side 's' = 30 feet. See image below for formula. Area = approximately 4346 square feet (rounded to nearest whole square foot).  

  • Find area of rectangular house with sides of 70 feet and 50 feet. Area = 70 feet * 50 feet = 3500 square feet.
  • Compare areas. 4346 square feet / 3500 square feet = 1.24. Octagonal house has area 1.24 times the area of rectangular house, or 24% more area.

Yes, I also know that the proof of all of these formulas for area would come down to breaking the octagon into triangles and using trigonometry to find the length of the apothem in order to calculate the area of the triangle ... but you don't have to show a proof in order to use a formula that is easily google-able and only requires knowledge of algebra and geometry to solve. The internet makes it even easier if you simply know enough to figure out the length of the side based on the perimeter. Google will let you type in the length of the side and it will calculate the area for you. 

Apr 5, 17 7:51 pm
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So far the best argument for being good at trigonometry was offered by Xenakis.

BulgarBlogger came in second before they went off about ancient Greeks rolling over in their graves (as if the Greeks were the only ones developing trigonometry and creating architecture).

Apr 5, 17 7:58 pm

I guess if it works for you that's great. I had rather just use the tangent of 22.5 degrees (in the case of an eight sided figure), calculate the area of one half of the eight-sided "pie" and multiply by 16.

Trig is also handy is calculating the length of ceiling rafters. Just solve a second solution in the vertical plane after you have done the first.

Apr 5, 17 8:29 pm

You do you. I never said trig wouldn't be useful, just not necessary.

If I was really trying to solve your problem quickly though, I'd draw an 8-sided polygon in CAD, scale a reference side to 30 feet, and then use the area command on the object. Result: 4346 square feet. Same as my previous answer, 3 more square feet than your answer. Sometimes the simplest solution is also more accurate. But like I said, you do you.

Apr 6, 17 11:00 am
Non Sequitur

just had the opportunity to use trig about 10mins ago.

I stopped and said... should I pull out the calculator? Nah man, I chose to use CAD since it was faster.

Apr 6, 17 11:07 am

Thanks for all the responses. Of course I have a general understanding of the basics and I will be taking trig (without dropping out) in the future. Just wanted to know outside of the basics, if it was very common in practice to use. 

Apr 6, 17 2:29 pm

back in the day, we had to be able to write c++ code to run trig expressions to build our 3D models - that was fun - I miss trig in architecture - the S.Es have all the fun - I still do it so I won't forget it

Apr 6, 17 2:34 pm

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