Special right triangles A special right triangle is a right triangle with some regular feature that makes calculations

on the triangle easier, or for which simple formulas exist. For example, a right triangle may have angles that form a simple ratio, such as 45-45-90. This is called an "angle based" right triangle. A "side based" right triangle is one in which the lengths of the sides form a whole number ratio, such as 34-5. Knowing the ratios of the angles or sides of these special right triangles allows one to quickly calculate various lengths in geometric problems without resorting to more advanced methods. [edit] Angle-based "Angle-based" special right triangles are specified by the integer ratio of the angles of which the triangle is composed. The integer ratio of the angles of these triangles are such that the larger (right) angle equals the sum of the smaller angles: . The side lengths are generally deduced from the basis of the unit circle or other geometric methods. This form is most interesting in that it may be used to rapidly reproduce the values of trigonometric functions for the angles 30°, 45°, & 60°. [edit] 45-45-90 triangle

A simple proof. Say you have such a triangle with legs a and b and hypotenuse c. Suppose that a = 1. Since two angles measure 45°, this is an isosceles triangle and we have b = 1. The fact that from the Pythagorean theorem. follows immediately

All of the special side based right triangles possess angles which are not necessarily rational numbers, but whose sides are always of integer length and form a Pythagorean triple. They are most useful in that they may be easily remembered and any multiple of the sides produces the same relationship. [edit] Common Pythagorean triples There are several Pythagorean triples which are very well known, including:

Triangles with these angles are the only possible right triangles that are also isosceles triangles in Euclidean geometry. However, in spherical geometry and hyperbolic geometry, there are infinitely many different shapes of right isosceles triangles. [edit] 30-60-90 triangle

(a multiple of the 3:4:5 triple)

The smallest of these (and its multiples, 6:8:10, 9:12:15, ...) is the only right triangle with edges in arithmetic progression. Triangles based on Pythagorean triples are Heronian and therefore have integer area. The side lengths of a 30-60-90 triangle This is a triangle whose three angles are in the ratio , and respectively measure 30°, 60°, and 90°. Since this triangle is half of an equilateral triangle, some refer to this as the hemieq triangle. The designation 30-6090 is not only cumbersome, it references the degree, an arbitrary division of angular measure. The sides are in the ratio 1 : √3 : 2. The proof of this fact is clear using trigonometry. Although the geometric proof is less apparent, it is equally trivial: And these are all the pythagorean triples with both nonhypotenuse sides less than 256:

The side lengths of a 45-45-90 triangle Constructing the diagonal of a square results in a triangle whose three angles are in the ratio . With the three angles adding up to 180° (π), the angles respectively measure 45° (π/4), 45° (π/4), and 90° (π/2). The sides are in the ratio

Draw an equilateral triangle ABC with side length 2 and with point D as the midpoint of segment BC. Draw an altitude line from A to D. Then ABD is a 30-60-90 (Hemieq) triangle with hypotenuse of length 2, and base BD of length 1. The fact that the remaining leg AD has length follows immediately from the Pythagorean theorem. [edit] Side-based

Isosceles right-angled triangles can not have sides with integer values. However, infinitely many almost-isosceles right triangles do exist. These are right-angled triangles with integral sides for which the lengths of the nonhypotenuse edges differ by one.[1] Such almost-isosceles right-angled triangles can be obtained recursively using Pell's equation: a0 = 1, b0 = 2 an = 2bn-1 + an-1 bn = 2an + bn-1 an is length of hypotenuse, n=1, 2, 3, .... The smallest Pythagorean triples resulting are:

[edit] Calculating common trig functions [edit] Fibonacci triangles Starting with 5, every other Fibonacci number {0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,...} is the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle with integral sides, or in other words, the largest number in a Pythagorean triple. The length of the longer leg of this triangle is equal to the sum of the three sides of the preceding triangle in this series of triangles, and the shorter leg is equal to the difference between the preceding bypassed Fibonacci number and the shorter leg of the preceding triangle. The first triangle in this series has sides of length 5, 4, and 3. Skipping 8, the next triangle has sides of length 13, 12 (5 + 4 + 3), and 5 (8 − 3). Skipping 21, the next triangle has sides of length 34, 30 (13 + 12 + 5), and 16 (21 − 5). This series continues indefinitely and approaches a limiting triangle with edge ratios: . This right triangle is sometimes referred to as a dom, a name suggested by Andrew Clarke to stress that this is the triangle obtained from dissecting a domino along a diagonal. The dom forms the basis of the aperiodic pinwheel tiling proposed by John Conway and Charles Radin. [edit] Almost-isosceles Pythagorean triples Special triangles are used to aid in calculating common trig functions, as below: Degrees 0 30 45 60 90 Radians 0 π/6 π/4 π/3 π/2 sin 0 1/2 √2 / 2 √3 / 2 1 cos 1 √3 / 2 √2 / 2 1/2 0 tan 0 √3 / 3 1 √3 Trig without Tears Part 3: Functions of Special Angles revised 25 Aug 2009 Copyright © 1997–2010 Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems Summary: You need to know the function values of certain special angles, namely 30° (π/6), 45° (π/4), and 60° (π/3). You also need to be able to go backward and know what angle has a sine of ½ or a tangent of −√3. While it’s easy to work them out as you go (using easy right triangles), you really need to memorize them because you’ll use them so often that deriving them or looking them up every time would really slow you down. Functions of 45° Look at this 45-45-90° triangle, which means sides a and b are equal. By the Pythagorean theorem, a² + b² = c² But a = b and c = 1; therefore 2a² = 1 a² = 1/2 a = 1/√2 = (√2)/2 Since a = sin 45°, sin 45° = (√2)/2

Also, b = cos 45° and b = a; therefore cos 45° = (√2)/2 Use the definition of tan A, equation 3 or equation 4: tan 45° = a/b = 1 (14) sin 45° = cos 45° = (√2)/2 tan 45° = 1 Functions of 30° and 60° Now look at this diagram. I’ve drawn two 30-60-90° triangles back to back, so that the two 30° angles are next to each other. Since 2×30° = 60°, the big triangle is a 6060-60° equilateral triangle. Each of the small triangles has hypotenuse 1, so the length 2b is also 1, which means that b = ½2s But b also equals cos 60°, and therefore cos 60° = ½ You can find a, which is sin 60°, by using the Pythagorean theorem: (½)² + a² = c² = 1 1/4 + a² = 1 a² = 3/4 ⇒ a = (√3)/2 Since a = sin 60°, sin 60° = (√3)/2. Since you know the sine and cosine of 60°, you can easily use the cofunction identities (equation 2) to get the cosine and sine of 30°: cos 30° = sin(90°−30°) = sin 60° = (√3)/2 sin 30° = cos(90°−30°) = cos 60° = 1/2 As before, use the definition of the tangent to find the tangents of 30° and 60° from the sines and cosines: tan 30° = sin 30° / cos 30° tan 30° = (1/2) / ((√3)/2) tan 30° = 1 / √3 = (√3)/3 and tan 60° = sin 60° / cos 60° tan 60° = ((√3)/2) / (1/2) tan 60° = √3 The values of the trig functions of 30° and 60° can be summarized like this: It’s not surprising that the cosine pattern is a mirror image of the sine pattern, since sin(90°−A) = cos A. Trig without Tears Part 4: Functions of Any Angle revised 25 Aug 2009 Copyright © 1997–2010 Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems Summary: The six trig functions were originally defined for acute angles in triangles, but now we define them for any angle (or any number). If you want any of the six function values for an angle that’s not between 0 and 90° (π/2), you just find the function value for the reference angle that is within that interval, and then possibly apply a minus sign. So far we have defined the six trig functions as ratios of sides of a right triangle. In a right triangle, the other two angles must be less than 90°, as suggested by the picture at left. Suppose you draw the triangle in a circle this way, with angle A at the origin and the circle’s radius equal to the hypotenuse of the triangle. The hypotenuse ends at the point on the circle with coordinates (x,y), where x and y are the lengths of the two legs of the triangle. Then using the standard definitions of the trig functions, you have sin A = opposite/hypotenuse = y/r cos A = adjacent/hypotenuse = x/r This is the key to extending the trig functions to any angle. Not Just Triangles Any More (16) for angle A = 0, 30° (π/6), 45° (π/4), 60° (π/3), 90° (π/2): sin A = (√0)/2, (√1)/2, (√2)/2, (√3)/2, (√4)/2 cos A = (√4)/2, (√3)/2, (√2)/2, (√1)/2, (√0)/2 tan A = 0, (√3)/3, 1, √3, undefined (15) sin 30° = ½, sin 60° = (√3)/2 cos 30° = (√3)/2, cos 60° = ½ tan 30° = (√3)/3, tan 60° = √3 Mnemonic for All Special Angles Incidentally, the sines and cosines of 0, 30°, 45°, 60° and 90° display a pleasing pattern:

The trig functions had their roots in measuring sides of triangles, and chords of a circle (which is practically the same thing). If we think about an angle in a circle, we can extend the trig functions to work for any angle. In the diagram, the general angle A is drawn in standard position, just as we did above for an acute angle. Just as before, its vertex is at the origin and its initial side lies along the positive x axis. The point where the terminal side of the angle cuts the circle is labeled (x,y). (This particular angle happens to be between 90° and 180° (π/2 and π), and we say it lies in Quadrant II. But you could draw a similar diagram for any angle, even a negative angle or one >360°.) Now let’s define sine and cosine of angle A, in terms of the coordinates (x,y) and the radius r of the circle: (21) sin A = y/r, cos A = x/r

This is nothing new. As you saw above when A was in Quadrant I, this is exactly the definition you already know from equation 1: sin A = opposite/hypotenuse, cos A = adjacent/hypotenuse. We’re just extending it to work for any angle. The other function definitions don’t change at all. From equation 3 we still have tan A = sin A / cos A which means that tan A = y/x and the other three functions are still defined as reciprocals (equation 5). Once again, there’s nothing new here: we’ve just extended the original definitions to a larger domain. Why Bother? So why go through this? Well, for openers, not every triangle is an acute triangle. Some have an angle greater than 90°. Even in down-to-earth physical triangles, you’ll have to be concerned with functions of angles greater than 90°. Beyond that, it turns out that all kinds of physical processes vary in terms of sines and cosines as functions of time: height of the tide; length of the day over the course of a year; vibrations of a spring, or of atoms, or of electrons in atoms; voltage and current in an AC circuit; pressure of sound waves, Nearly every periodic process can be described in terms of sines and cosines.

And that leads to a subtle shift of emphasis. You started out thinking of trig functions of angles, but really the domain of trig functions is all real numbers, just like most other functions. How can this be? Well, when you think of an “angle” of so-and-so many radians, actually that’s just a pure number. For instance, 30°=π/6. We customarily say “radians” just to distinguish from degrees, but really π/6 is a pure number. When you take sin(π/6), you’re actually evaluating the function sin(x) at x = π/6 (about 0.52), even though traditionally you’re taught to think of π/6 as an angle.

other functions are defined in terms of the sine and cosine, The techniques we worked out above can be generalized you also know where they are positive or negative. into a set of identities. For instance, if two angles are supplements then you can write one as A and the other as Spend a few minutes thinking about it, and draw some 180°−A. You know that one will be in Q I and the other in sketches. For instance, is cos 300° positive or negative? Q II, and you also know that one will be the reference Answer: 300° is in Q IV, which is in the right-hand half of angle of the other. Therefore you know at once that the the circle. Therefore x is positive, and the cosine must be sines of the two angles will be equal, and the cosines of positive as well. The reference angle is 60° (draw it!), so the two will be numerically equal but have opposite signs. cos 300° equals cos 60° and not −cos 60°. Here you see a unit circle (r = 1) with four identical You can check your thinking against the chart that follows. triangles. Their angles A are at the origin, arranged so that Whatever you do, don’t memorize the chart! Its purpose is they’re mirror images of each other, and their hypotenuses to show you how to reason out the signs of the function We won’t get too far into that in these pages, but here’s form radii of the unit circle. Look at the triangle in values whenever you need them, not to make you waste an example. If the average water depth is 8 ft in a certain Quadrant I. Since its hypotenuse is 1, its other two sides storage space in your brain. harbor, and the tide varies by ±3 ft, then the height at are cos A and sin A. time t is given by a function that resembles y = Signs of Function Values The other three triangles are the same size as the first so 8 + 3 cos(0.52t). (It’s actually more complicated, because QI Q II Q III Q IV their sides must be the same length as the sides of the first high tides don’t come at the same time every day, but 0 to 90° 90 to 180° 180 to 270° 270 to 360° triangle. But you can also look at the other three radii as that’s the idea.) 0 to π/2 π/2 to π π to 3π/2 3π/2 to 2π belonging to angles 180°−A in Quadrant II, 180°+A in x positive negative negative positive Reference Angles Quadrant III, and −A or 360°−A in Quadrant IV. All the others have a reference angle equal to A. From the y positive positive negative negative Coming back from philosophy to the nitty-gritty of symmetry, you can immediately see things like sin A computation, how do we find the value of a function when positive positive negative negative sin(180°+A) = −sin A and cos(−A) = cos A. (= y/r) the angle (or number) is outside the range [0;90°] (which is 0 to π/2)? The key is to define a reference angle. The relations are summarized below. Don’t memorize cos A positive negative negative positive them! Just draw a diagram whenever you need them — it’s (= x/r) Here’s the same picture of angle A again, but with its easiest if you use a hypotenuse of 1. Soon you’ll find that tan A reference angle added. With angle A in standard position, positive negative positive negative you can quickly visualize the triangles in your mind and you (= y/x) the reference angle is the acute angle between the won’t even need to draw a diagram. The identities for terminal side of A and the positive or negative x axis. In What about other angles? Well, 420° = 360°+60°, and tangent are easy to derive: just divide sine by cosine as this case, angle A is in Q II, the reference angle is 180°−A therefore 420° ends in the same position in the circle as usual. (π−A). Why? Because the two angles together equal 180° 60° — it’s just going once around the circle and then an (π). additional 60°. So 420° is in Q I, just like 60°. sin(180°−A) = cos(180°−A) = tan(180°−A) = sin A −cos A −tan A What good does the reference angle do you? Simply this: You can analyze negative angles the same way. Take −45°. sin(π−A) = cos(π−A) = tan(π−A) = the six function values for any angle equal the function That occupies the same place on the circle as +315° sin A −cos A −tan A values for its reference angle, give or take a minus sign. (360°−45°). −45° is in Q IV. That’s an incredibly powerful statement, if you think about Examples: Function Values sin(180°+A) = cos(180°+A) = tan(180°+A) = (22) it. In the drawing, A is about 150° and the reference angle −sin A −cos A tan A As you’ve seen, for any function you get the numeric value sin(π+A) = is therefore about 30°. Let’s say they’re exactly 150° and cos(π+A) = tan(π+A) = by considering the reference angle and the positive or 30°, just for discussion. Then sine, cosine, tangent, −sin A −cos A tan A cotangent, secant, and cosecant of 150° are equal to those negative sign by looking where the angle is. sin(−A) = cos(−A) = tan(−A) = same functions of 30°, give or take a minus sign. Example: What’s cos 240°? Solution: Draw the angle and −sin A cos A −tan A see that the reference angle is 60°; remember that the What’s this “give or take” business? That’s what the next reference angle always goes to the x axis, even if the y axis section is about. Periodic Functions is closer. cos 60° = ½, and therefore cos 240° will be ½, Signs of Function Values give or take a minus sign. The angle is in Q III, where x is You should be able to see that 360° brings you all the way negative, and therefore cos 240° is negative. Answer: around the circle. That means that an angle of 360°+A or Remember the extended definitions from equation 21: cos 240° = −½. 2π+A is the same as angle A. Therefore the function values sin A = y/r, cos A = x/r are unchanged when you add 360° or a multiple of 360° (or Example: What’s tan(−225°)? Solution: Draw the angle and 2π or a multiple) to the angle. Also, if you move in the The radius r is always taken as positive, and therefore the find the reference angle of 45°. tan 45° = 1. But −225° is in opposite direction for angle A, that’s the same angle as signs of sine and cosine are the same as the signs of y and Q II, where x is negative and y is positive; therefore y/x is 360°−A or 2π−A, so the function values of −A and 360°−A x. But you know which quadrants have positive or negative negative. Answer: tan(−225°) = −1. (or 2π−A) are the same. y and x, so you know for which angles (or numbers) the Identities for Related Angles sine and cosine are positive or negative. And since the

For this reason we say that sine and cosine are periodic functions with a period of 360° or 2π. Their values repeat over and over again. Of course secant and cosecant, being reciprocals of cosine and sine, must have the same period. What about tangent and cotangent? They are periodic too, but their period is 180° or π: they repeat twice as fast as the others. You can see this from equation 22: tan(180°+A) = tan A says that the function values repeat every 180°.

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