Rise and Sine

How to Implement an Interactive Unit Circle In Your Lesson


Ready to level up your unit circle teaching? Let’s chat about some ways implementing an interactive unit circle can be a game-changer in your classroom!

Teaching the unit circle can be overwhelming to students. I found that students enjoyed the creative outlet that creating their own interactive unit circle provided. For instance, they were more engaged and receptive to questions when they had the tangible item to hold and manipulate.

So, what do you need to get started?

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To create the interactive unit circle as shown in the image, I used:

bright colored cardstock and paper, scissors and glue for assembly, a paper fastener and single hole puncher.

If your students keep their notes in a binder, you can three hole punch this too!

Okay, but what makes this better than just a fill in the blank unit circle worksheet?

In an unofficial study conducted in my classroom, students rarely misplaced this activity! Was it a subconscious sense of pride that they created the activity themselves? Is it the fact it’s super neon? Regardless, when they needed to use use the interactive unit circle, they always had it available. (And any time I don’t have to run around looking for extra copies of a worksheet, it’s a win for me!)

Speaking of wins, engagement increased! In my experience, students can be a bit reluctant to shuffle through notes when they need to find information. However, the interactive unit circle was accepted as a tool, and students used it as such. 

Finding appropriate hands-on learning activities can become difficult in higher-level secondary classes. If there’s an opportunity to successfully provide a tool for students to have another avenue for learning – I take it!

Use this to guide so many questions!

Here’s the part where you can let the abilities and personalities of your unique classroom guide the learning process.

For example, students will need to assemble the unit circle and thus angles in degrees and radians will need to be correctly matched. Maybe your students will figure it out on their own, maybe you want them working in pairs or in groups to bounce questions off one another, or maybe you can provide some warm up questions to convert degrees to radians to prep them for the skills needed ahead!

Use the opportunity to have students demonstrate positive and negative angles! Walk around the room to monitor their progress and low key check in on them to assess they can manipulate the triangles to move the angles in the appropriate direction. 

On each triangle piece, the sine and cosine values are labeled. You can ask students to explain what these values are and then use them to find the coordinates along the circle. You can ask them to relate the side lengths to the central angle measure. Have them calculate the hypotenuse if they don’t recall the radius of the unit circle is always 1. 

Once students can figure out the coordinates, have them analyze them and talk signs! For instance, what do they notice about the signs of each quadrant? Why is that pattern happening?

Adapt it to fit the needs of your classroom!

You can adapt the interactive unit circle to fit the needs of the various levels of your students in your specific classroom. Specifically:

Students can build this all in one class period, or progressively add components as they are taught. 

You can design a worksheet to have students answer class level appropriate discoveries of building the unit circle using some of the ideas above.

Work with what you have! You don’t need the supplies listed! White paper and some crayons and markers will do the trick. (I spent my first year teaching in a computer lab, I get the struggle!)

The rotating triangles will come in handy when teaching how to solve trig equations because students will be able to relate the angles from the same reference angle.

Grab the template to use this interactive unit circle in your classroom!


Not exactly what you’re looking for? Check out my previous post Fresh Ideas to Teach the Unit Circle In Trigonometry.

Happy Teaching!

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