You are on page 1of 5

AP Calculus BC

Lesson Set 5: Parametric Equations

Parametric equations are sets of equations of multiple variables (2 for now), where each
variable is given as a function of another independent variable (usually t for time). We call t the
parameter. Example: x (t) = 2t. y (t) = t2.
As t varies over its interval I (ts domain, if you will), the graph of points (x, y) unfolds
on the plane. We call this curve the plane curve (C).

Example 1: Consider the path followed by an object propelled into the air at an angle of 45. If
the initial velocity of the object is 48 feet per second, the object travels the parabolic path given
by
y = -x2/72 + x.
This equation tells us where the object goes as a function of its horizontal trajectory.
What if we want to know when the object reached a certain point?
We can rewrite the function as parametric equations (showing this soon):
x (t) = 242 t. y (t) = -16t2 + 242 t. Then at t = 0, we are at (0, 0). At t = 1, we are at (242,
242 16).
Sketching a Parametric Equation
Example: x = 2t and y = t2.
t
0
1
2
3
-1
-2
-3

x (t)
0
2
4
6
-2
-4
-6

y (t)
0
1
4
9
1
4
9

Draw the points (x, y) on the board. Notice that the graph is a parabola with vertex (0, 0).

Example: x = t2 4 and y = t/2.


t
x (t)
0
-4
1
-3
2
0
3
5
-1
-3
-2
0
-3
5
Draw the points (x, y). Notice this is a sideways parabola.

y (t)
0
1/2
1
3/2
-1/2
-1
-3/2

Insert a few other problems for students to complete: a) x = sin t and y = cos t. (Unit Circle),
b ) x = 2t and y = 2t, and c) x = t and y = 6(1 + t) -1.

Eliminating the Parameter

1) Solve for t in the easiest equation (x if possible).


2) Substitute for t in the other equation (solve for y if possible).

Example: x = t2 4 and y = t/2.


y = t/2 2y = t.
x = t2 4 x = (2y)2 4 x = 4y2 4.

Example: x = 1/[(t + 1)] and y = t/(t + 1). t > -1 (Be careful of the condition.)
y = t/(t + 1) (1/y) = (t + 1)/t = 1 + 1/t.
(1/y) 1 = 1/t t = 1/[(1/y) 1] t = y/(1 y).
x = 1/[(t + 1)] x = {[1 + y/(1 y)]} -1 = {[(1 y + y)/(1 y)]} -1 = {1/(1 y)} -1 =
(1 y).
x = (1 y) x2 = 1 y y = 1 x2.
BUT, t > -1 means what?

x = 1/[(t + 1)] 1/p, where p > 0. Then x > 0.

Trigonometry and Elimination of the Parameter

Example: x = 3 cos and y = 4 sin . 0 2.


Note: This is an ellipse. An ellipse is of the form (x2/a2) + (y2/b2) = 1 from precalculus.

x = 3 cos cos = x/3.

y = 4 sin sin = y/4.

We want cos2 + sin2 = 1.


cos2 = (x/3)2 = x2/9.

sin2 = (y/4)2 = y2/16.

cos2 + sin2 = 1 (x2/9) + (y2/16) = 1.

Note: An ellipse of the form (x2/a2) + (y2/b2) = 1 has a parametric equation of the forms:
x = a cos and y = b sin OR x = a sin and y = b cos .

Finding Parametric Equations

Example: Find a set of parametric equations to represent the graph of y = 1 x2 if: a) t = x and
b) t = m = dy/dx.
a) x = t y = 1 t2.

b) t = m = dy/dx dy/dx = -2x x = m/(-2) x = -t/2.


y = 1 x2 y = 1 (-t/2)2 y = 1 t2/4.
Why is there more than one parametric equation for this graph?

There are actually an infinite number of parametric equations for a given function of
(x, y) because of two factors: 1) direction and 2) speed. We might be tracing the same shape, but
we can do so from various starting spots and at different speeds.

Add some book problems: 6, 14, 18, 26, and 30.

Building example 1 from the start of class: Consider the path followed by an object propelled
into the air at an angle of 45. If the initial velocity of the object is 48 feet per second, the object
travels the parabolic path given by y = -x2/72 + x.
Two factors: 1) initial velocity is 48 feet/second and 2) g (t) = -32 feet/second2.
We start by drawing a triangle to represent the starting spot where the hypotenuse (h*) = 48
ft/sec, x* is the horizontal vector, y* is the vertical vector, and = 45.
sin 45 = y*/h*.

cos 45 = x*/h*.

y* = h* sin 45

x* = h* cos 45

y* = 48 (2/2) = 242

x* = 48 (2/2) = 242

y* is the vertical component of the velocity, and x* is the horizontal component.

y (t) = -32 ft/sec2.

x (t) = 0 ft/sec2.

y (t) = -32t + C = -32t + y*.

x (t) = C = x*.

y (t) = -32t + 242.

x (t) = 242.

y (t) = -16t2 + 242 t + C.

x (t) = 242 t + C.

y (t) = -16t2 + 242 t.

x (t) = 242 t.

Note: Initial position is (0, 0).


x (t) = 242 t t = x/(242). Plug into y (t).
y (x) = -16[x/(242)]2 + 242 [x/(242)] = -16[x2/1152] + x y = -x2/72 + x.

Derivatives of Parametric Equations

The rules for the first and second derivatives of a parametric equation are simply
extensions of the alternate definition of the chain rule.
If x and y are both differentiable functions of t and if dx/dt 0, then
dy dy /dt
=
dx dx/dt
If dy/dx is also a differentiable function of t, then
d /dt ( dy /dx )
d 2 y d dy
=
=
2
dx /dt
d x dx dx

( )

Example: x = 2 sin t and y = 3 cos t


dy dy /dt 3 sin t 3
=
=
=
tan t
dx dx/dt 2 cos t
2
2
d dy d / dt ( dy /dx ) 3/2 ( sec x ) 3 ( 3 )
=
=
=
sec x
dx dx
dx /dt
2 cos t
4

( )

Example: Find the coordinates of any points along the parametric curve x = 4 cos t and y = -sin t
that have vertical or horizontal tangent lines.
dy cos t
=
dx 4 sint
Vertical tangent lines occur when sin t = 0 at t = 0, , 2,
Horizontal tangent lines occur when cos t = 0 at t = /2, 3/2,