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You are on page 1of 8

Dr. Marcel B. Finan

3 Geometry in the Cartesian System

This section is designed to familiarize students to the Cartesian coordinate

system and its many uses in the world of mathematics.

The Cartesian coordinate system, also known as the rectangular coordi-

nate system or the xy-plane, consists of two number scales, called the x-axis

(a horizontal axis) and the y-axis (a vertical axis), that are perpendicular

to each other at point O called the origin. Any point in the system is asso-

ciated with an ordered pair of numbers (x, y) called the coordinates of

the point. The number x is called the abscissa or the x-coordinate and

the number y is called the ordinate or the y-coordinate. Positive values

of the x-coordinate are measured to the right, negative values to the left.

Positive values of the y-coordinate are measured up, negative values down.

The origin is denoted as (0, 0).

The axes divide the coordinate system into four regions called quadrants

and are numbered counterclockwise as shown in Figure 3.1

To plot a point P(a, b) means to draw a dot at its location in the xy-plane.

Example 3.1

Plot the point P with coordinates (5, 2).

Solution.

Figure 3.1 shows the location of the point P(5, 2) in the xy-plane.

Figure 3.1

1

The following chart indicates the sign of each coordinate in the Cartesian

sysytem.

x y

Quadrant I + +

Quadrant II +

Quadrant III

Quadrant IV +

Positive x-axis + 0

Negative x-axis 0

Positive y-axis 0 +

Negative y-axis 0

Distance Between Two Points

The Distance Formula is a variant of the Pythagorean formula that you

used back in geometry. Heres how we get from one to the other: Given

two points A(x

1

, y

1

) and B(x

2

, y

2

). Let d be the distance between the two

points. Construct the right triangle as shown in Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.2

By the Pythagorean formula we have

d

2

= |AC|

2

+|CB|

2

= (x

2

x

1

)

2

+ (y

2

y

1

)

2

.

Taking the square root of both sides we obtain the distance formula

d = d(A, B) =

(x

2

x

1

)

2

+ (y

2

y

1

)

2

.

Example 3.2

Find the distance between the points (5, 8) and (10, 14).

Solution.

Applying the distance formula we nd

d =

(14 8)

2

+ (10 (5))

2

=

36 + 25 =

61

2

The Midpoint Formula

The point halfway between the endpoints of a line segment is called the

midpoint. Thus, a midpoint divides a line segment into two equal parts.

Let M(a, b) be the midpoint of the line segment with endpoints A(x

1

, y

1

)

and B(x

2

, y

2

). See Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3

The triangles MAN and BMP are similar so that we can write

|MA|

|BM|

=

|AN|

|MP|

.

But |MA| = |BM| so that |AN| = |MP|. Also, |MP| = |NC| so that

|AN| = |NC|. Thus, N is the midpoint of the line segment with endpoints

A and C. It follows that a x

1

= x

2

a or a =

x

1

+x

2

2

. A similar argument

shows that P is the midpoint of the line segment with endpoints B and C

and b =

y

1

+y

2

2

. Thus, the midpoint M is given by the midpoint formula

M

x

1

+x

2

2

,

y

1

+y

2

2

.

Example 3.3

Find the midpoint of the line segment with endpoints A(4, 7) and B(10, 7).

Solution.

Plugging into the midpoint formula we nd

Midpoint =

x

1

+x

2

2

,

y

1

+y

2

2

4+(10)

2

,

7+7

2

= (3, 7)

Graph of an Equation

Given an equation involving the two variables x and y. The graph of an

3

equation is the set of ordered pairs (x, y) that satisfy the equation.

A typical procedure for graphing an equation is to plot points and then

connect them with a continuous curve as shown in the next examples.

Example 3.4

Graph the equation by plotting points: 2x +y = 1.

Solution.

Writing y in terms of x we nd y = 1 2x. The table below shows some

points on the graph of the equation.

x -2 -1 0 1 2

y 3 1 -1 -3 -5

Next, plot the points and draw a curve through them. See Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4

Example 3.5

Graph the equation by plotting points: y = |x + 3| 2.

Solution.

The table below shows some points on the graph of the equation.

x -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0

y 1 0 -1 -2 -1 0 1

Next, plot the points and draw a curve through them. See Figure 3.5

4

Figure 3.5

Example 3.6

Graph the equation y = x

2

2x 8.

Solution.

The table below shows some points on the graph of the equation.

x -3 - 2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5

y 7 0 -5 -8 -9 -8 -5 0 7

Next, plot the points and draw a curve through them. See Figure 3.6

Figure 3.6

Intercepts

A point (x, 0) on the graph of an equation is called an x-intercept. Geo-

metrically, the x-intercept is the point where the graph crosses the x-axis.

Similarly, a point of the form (0, y) is called a y-intercept. This is the

point where the graph crosses the y-axis.

Example 3.7

Find the x- and y-intercepts of the graph of x

2

+y

2

= 4.

5

Solution.

Letting y = 0 in the given equation we nd x

2

= 4. Solving for x to obtain

x = 2. Thus, the x-intercepts are the points (2, 0) and (2, 0). Similarly,

setting x = 0 to obtain y

2

= 4. Solving for y we obtain y = 2. So the

points (0, 2) and (0, 2) are the y-intercepts

The Equation of a Circle

By a circle we mean the collection of all points in the plane that are at an

equal distance to a xed point called the center of the circle. The distance

of a point on a circle to its center is called the radius. The diameter of a

circle is the length of a line segment crossing the center and with endpoints

on the circle. Thus, the center is the midpoint and as a result a diameter is

twice the radius.

Next, we want to nd the equation of a circle with center C(a, b) and radius

r. For this, let M(x, y) be an arbitrary point on the circle. Then d(C, M) = r.

By the distance formula, we have

(x a)

2

+ (y b)

2

= r

2

.

This equation is called the standard form of the equation of a circle.

Example 3.8

Determine the center and the radius of the circle with equation: (x 2)

2

+

(y + 4)

2

= 25.

Solution.

The center is the point (2, 4) and the radius is r =

25 = 5

Example 3.9

Find the equation of the circle with center C(5, 3) and radius r = 4. Write

the answer in standard form.

Solution.

The equation of the circle is given by

(x 5)

2

+ (y + 3)

2

= 16

Example 3.10

Find the equation of the circle with center C(2, 5) and passing through

the point M(1, 7).

6

Solution.

The radius of the circle is r = d(C, M) =

(7 5)

2

+ (1 (2))

2

=

13.

Thus, the equation of the circle is

(x + 2)

2

+ (y 5)

2

= 13

Another form of the equation of a circle is known as the general form and

is given by the equation

x

2

+y

2

+Ax +By +C = 0.

To nd the standard form from the general form we use the process of

completing the square as shown in the following example.

Example 3.11

Find the center and the radius of the circle: x

2

+y

2

6x 4y + 12 = 0.

Solution.

We use the method of completing the square:

(x

2

6x) + (y

2

4y) = 12

(x

2

6x + 9) + (y

2

4y + 4) = 12 + 9 + 4

(x 3)

2

+ (y 2)

2

= 1.

Thus, the center is (3, 2) and the radius is r = 1

Example 3.12

Find the equation of a circle that has diameter with endpoints (7, 2) and

(3, 5). Write your answer in standard form.

Solution.

The center of the circle is the midpoint of the given diameter. By the

midpoint formula, the coordinates of the center are (

73

2

,

2+5

2

) = (2,

3

2

).

The radius of the circle is the distance between the center and one of the

endpoints. This can be found by using the distance formula

d =

(2 7)

2

+ (

3

2

+ 2)

2

=

149

2

.

The equation of the circle is

(x 2)

2

+ (y

3

2

)

2

=

149

4

7

Example 3.13

Find an equation of a circle that has its center at (2, 3) and is tangent to

the y-axis. Write your answer in standard form.

Solution.

The radius of the circle is the distance from the center to the y-axis which

is the absolute value of the x-coordinate of the the center, i.e. r = 2. Hence,

the equation of the circle is given by

(x + 2)

2

+ (y 3)

2

= 4.

8

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