Explains the sine and cosine rules.

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Explains the sine and cosine rules.

Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC)

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uk

Sine and Cosine Rules and the Area Formulae

The sine and cosine rules and area formulae

1

are equations that relate the

lengths of sides, area and angles of triangle using the sin and cosine functions

2

.

Let the triangle have sides of length a, b and c, with the angles opposite each side

having angles of A, B and C.

Sine Rule

sin

=

sin

=

sin

To use the sine rule either two sides with one of their opposite angles are given

or two angles and one of their opposite sides.

1

Mathcentre Triangle Formulae - Guide : Exercises

2

Trigonometry

a

b

c

B

C

A

Example

Determine the angles A and C and the length of side c.

3cm

5cm C

A

25 c

Using the sine rule it follows that

3

sin25

=

5

sin

= 7.099.

Hence = 44.78. Since the internal angles of a triangle have the sum of

180, then = 110.22.

Using the sine rule it follows that

sin110

= 7.099.

Hence = 6.67cm.

www.mathematics.me.uk

Cosine Rule

2

=

2

+

2

2

Alternatively:

2

=

2

+

2

2

2

=

2

+

2

2

To use the rule two either all three side lengths need to be known, or two sides

and the angle between them.

16 = 9 +4 12 cos

Example

A triangle has sides of length 2cm, 3cm and 4cm. Find the internal angles.

B

4cm

2cm

A C

3cm

We have a=4cm, b=3cm, c=2cm. Any of the formulae above can be used to

progress with the solution, so we will work from the first one:

4

2

= 3

2

+2

2

23 2 cos .

Hence

Hence

cos = 0.25 and A=104.478.

To find another internal angle we may use either the sine or cosine rule. Using

the sine rule

sin

=

sin

gives

4

sin 104.478

=

3

sin

.

Hence

sin =

3

4

sin104.478 = 0.726 and B= 46.567.

Since all the internal angles sum to 180 then C=28.955.

www.mathematics.me.uk

Area Formula

For the same general triangle the area of the triangle can be determined by any

one of the following formulae

area =

1

2

sin =

1

2

sin =

1

2

sin .

Example

A triangle has sides of length 2cm, 3cm and 4cm and the angle A (opposite the

4cm side) is 104.478

o

. Find the area.

area =

1

2

sin =

1

2

23sin(104.478

o

)=2.904 .

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