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COGS-Q 700 - The Pythagorean Theorem

Michael Hansen - October 25, 2010 First, lets construct a right triangle, like the white one below. Well then divide it into two right triangles as shown:

Interestingly, the two smaller triangles are similar to each other and to the original triangle. The original area, of course, is the sum of the two smaller areas. Now, lets turn all of our triangles on their bottoms like so. . .

Next, well draw a square underneath each triangle. This could be any shape, though, as long as its area is a multiple of its triangles area and we do the same thing for each triangle. For now, well use the triangle bottoms to make squares and end up with three shapes that look like houses.

These houses are special, though, since our three attics are similar and the small attics ll up the large attic.

Because our attics are similar, we can view them as scaled copies of each other. And since the area of each room is a multiple of its attics area, the ratio of room-area to attic-area is the same for every house!

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To see why the Pythagorean Theorem is true, you need only remember that the small attics ll the large attic. Because each house has the same atticroom ratio, the small rooms must also ll up the large room.