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# Solve a sin x + b cos x = c

## Yue Kwok Choy

Question
Solve :

12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4
P

Method 1
12
.
5

## Construct a triangle OPQ with tan =

13

67.380o .

12

Also,

OP = 5 2 +12 2 =13

Now,

12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4

## (13 sin ) sin x + (13 cos ) cos x = 4

13 (cos x cos + sin x sin ) = 4
13 cos (x ) = 4
cos( x ) =

4
13

## x 67.380 360 n 72.080 o

x 360 n 72.080 o + 67.380

x 360 n + 139.460

or

## x 360 n 4.700 ,where n is an integer .

. (1)

Method 2
Construct a triangle OPQ with tan =

5
.
12

22.620o .

13

Also,

OP = 5 +12 =13

Now,

12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4

12

## 13 (sin x cos + cos x sin ) = 4

13 sin ( x + ) = 4
sin ( x + ) =

4
13

n

## x 180 n + ( 1) 17.920 o 22.620

n

, where n is an integer .

. (2)

To show that the solution set (2) is the same as the solution set (1), we need to divide the solution into odd
and even cases :
(a)

n = 2m ,

(b) n = 2m + 1,
Method 3

## x 180 ( 2m + 1) 17.920 o 22.620 = 360 m + 139.460 , where m is an integer.

(t method)
1

Let t = tan

x
.
2

x
x
sin x = 2 sin cos = 2
2
2

x
x
2 tan
x
2 cos 2 =
2 = 2t
x
x 1 + t2
2
cos
sec 2
2
2
sin

2 x
1 tan 2
sin

2
x
x
x
2 cos 2 =
2 = 1 t
cos x = cos 2 sin 2 = 1
x
2
2
2
1+ t2
2 x
sec 2
cos
2
2

## Now, the equation :

12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4
2
2t 1 t

=4
12
+
5

2
2

1 + t 1 + t
12( 2 t ) + 5(1 t 2 ) = 4(1 + t 2 )

9 t 2 24 t 1 = 0
t=

x
2.7077 or
2

4 17
3

x
0.041035
2

tan

x
180 n + 69.730
2

or

x
180 n 2.3500
2

x 360 n + 139.460

or

## x 360 n 4.700 , where n is an integer .

Method 4

tan

. (3)

(unsatisfactory)

12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4
12 sin x 5 1 sin 2 x = 4
5 1 sin 2 x = 4 12 sin x

## 169 sin 2 x 96 sin x 9 = 0

sin x =

48 15 17

169

0.64998

x 180 n + ( 1) 40.540
n

or
or

0.081932

x 180 n + ( 1) 4.700
n

. (4)

Method 4 is unsatisfactory since solution set (4) gives a larger solution set than (1), (2) or (3).
Readers please explain. What solutions should be rejected ? How to reject ?
Explanation
Squaring equation creates roots! That is why Method 4 is not recommended.
2

## Finding the redundant roots is tedious:

In (4),
(a)

When
(i)

x 180 n + ( 1) 40.540 .
n

n = 2m,

(ii) n = 2m + 1,
(b) When
(i)

x 360 m + 40.540
x 360 m +139.460

x 180 n + ( 1) 4.700

n = 2m,

(ii) n = 2m + 1,

x 360 m 4.700

x 360 m +184.700

## Therefore (4) is equivalent to :

x 360 m + 40.540

x 360 m + 139.460

x 360 m 4.700
x 360 m + 184.700

....( 4.1)
....( 4.2)
....( 4.3)
....( 4.4)

## (4.2) and (4.3) are good solutions.

(4.1) and (4.4) should be rejected.
For (4.1), 12 sin x + 5 cos x = 12 sin (360 m + 40.540 ) + 5 cos(360 m + 40.540 )
= 12 sin 40.540 + 5 cos 40.540

## 12( 0.64998) + 5( 0.75995)

11.59951
4

x 360 m + 40.540

does not satisfy the equation 12 sin x + 5 cos x = 4, and should be rejected.