Exploration of students’ conceptual understanding of Trigonometric functions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Veronica Sarungi

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Peter Kajoro


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


This study was an exploration of students’ conceptual understanding of trigonometric functions as this is the basis of their trigonometric skills. Trigonometric skills are very important skills needed in fields such as architecture and engineering. The link between facts, skills and conceptual understanding is therefore very important for students who wish to pursue such careers. A qualitative design was used in the study. Twenty five students studying in a public secondary school, were selected from among those taking PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics) in form six. The data was collected using a questionnaire in form of a test and interviews. Based on performance on the test, three students were selected for interviews. Findings of the study reveal that students prefer the use of ratios in defining trigonometric functions. They also use different methods when dealing with trigonometric functions such as the use of trigonometric identity, values of special angles among others. This study showed that some students have conceptual understanding of trigonometric functions that enabled them to do well in questions from this area of mathematics. However, some students seemed not able to link concepts although they did use special angles. Nevertheless, using ratio identities and values of special angles, might not be work in all situations or contexts. One of the recommendations of this study is that teachers become more aware of the effect of lack of conceptual understanding so that they strive to achieve this as they teach learners.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library