# SIMILAR  RIGHT  TRIANGLES  AND  TRIG  RATIOS  -­‐  PART  3

ORIGINALLY  ADAPTED  FROM  THE  BRILLIANT  SAM  J  SHAH

1.   We  saw  how  useful  the  ratios  of  the  sides  of  right  triangles  could  be  for  us.  These  are  so  important  to
mathematicians  that  they  gave  them  names.  (They  come  from  Latin.)

Sine
Cosine
Tangent
leg opposite of angle
leg opposite of angle
tan(∠) =

sin(∠) =
cos(∠) =
hypotenuse
hypotenuse

this  is  often  shortened…
this  is  often  shortened…
this  is  often  shortened…

“SOH”

“CAH”

“TOA”

It  is  important  to  note  that  although  the  names  might  seem  fancy,  their  meanings  are  simply  the  ratio  of
sides  of  a  right  triangle.  And  those  ratios  are  important  because  all  similar  right  triangles  have  the  same
ratios!

So  with  our  fancy  new  names,  the  Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios  is  actually:
Angle
(degree)
21
22
23
24
…
44
45
46
47
…
79
80
81
82
…

`

sin(∠)

cos(∠)

tan(∠)

0.3584
0.3746
0.3907
0.4067
…
0.6947
0.7071
0.7193
0.7314
…
0.9816
0.9848
0.9877
0.9903
…

0.9336
0.9272
0.9205
0.9135
…
0.7193
0.7071
0.6947
0.6820
…
0.1908
0.1736
0.1564
0.1392
…

0.3839
0.4040
0.4245
0.4452
…
0.9657
1.0000
1.0355
1.0724
…
5.1446
5.6713
6.3138
7.1154
…

And  I  know  you’ve  seen  these  buttons  on  your  calculator!  Check  it!  Make  sure  your  calculator  is  in  degree  mode
by  pressing  MODE  and  then  make  sure  DEGREE  is  highlighted.  If  it  isn’t,  use  the  arrow  buttons  to  highlight
degree  and  press  “Enter”  so  it  is.

Now  on  your  home  screen  type:
and  press  “Enter.”  Check  it  out!  Look  at  the  table  on  the
previous  page!

(a)  What  precisely  does  that  value  mean  geometrically?
For  any  right  triangle  with  an  angle  of  23  degrees,  ___________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________________.
(b)  Check  the  following  on  your  calculator,  see  if  the  table  above  matches  what  you  get,  and  explain  what  the
number  means  geometrically:
Type   tan(81)
Geometrically,  it  means:

For  any  right  triangle  with  an
angle  of  81  degrees,

Type   cos(46)
Geometrically,  it  means:

For  any  right  triangle  with  an  angle
of  46  degrees,

Type   sin(44)
Geometrically,  it  means:

For  any  right  triangle  with  an  angle
of  44  degrees,

Yup.  Your  calculator  has  built  into  it  our  Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios.  Fancy!
But  even  better,  we  can  get  these  ratios  for  non-­‐integer  angle  right  triangles!
(c)  Use  your  calculator  to  find  the  hypotenuse.

`

(d)  Use  your  calculator  to  find  the  side  adjacent  to  the  given  angle:

(e)  Use  your  calculator  to  find  the  sides  opposite  to  and  adjacent  to  the  given  angle:

Super  duper  important  conclusion  #1:  Your  calculator’s  sine,  cosine,  and  tangent  buttons  are  simply  a  quick
way  to  get  an  accurate  ratio  of  sides  from  the  calculator’s  extensive  internal  Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios.
In  essence,  your  calculator  is  doing  the  work  of  looking  up  the  table  values  for  you.  Nothing  more.

Super  duper  important  conclusion  #2:  To  get  your  calculator  to  give  you  the  right  values  in  its  extensive
Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios,  you  input  the  angle  into
,  and  it  will  give  you  an  output  of  a
ratio  of  sides.  When  you  enter  sin(42)  into  your  calculator  you  are  basically  saying,  “Hey  calculator,  do  you
mind  telling  me  the  ratio  of  the  side  opposite  to  the  42  degree  angle  to  the  hypotenuse?”.
2.   More  Practice,  for  problems  you’ve  done  before!

`

3.   But  wait!  There’s  more!  If  we  know  a  ratio  of  sides,  we  can  actually  use  our
calculator  to  find  the  missing  angles  too!
(a)  If  we  call  the  missing  angle   θ  (a  Greek  letter  commonly  used  for  angles,  theta),  we
1.244
know  that   cos(θ ) =
≈ 0.4539814612 .  Use  our  Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios  to
2.7402
find  the  missing  angle  to  the  nearest  degree.

(b)  Now  we’re  going  to  use  our  calculator.  To  find  the  missing  angle,  we  use  a  related  key  on  our  calculator.
Instead  of  using  cosine,  we’re  using  something  called  “inverse  cosine.”  For  now,  just  know  that  what  this  does  is
it  looks  through  the  calculator’s  internal  extensive  table  of  trig  ratios,  finds  the  appropriate  one,  and  outputs
the  angle.

,  and  hit  “Enter.”  To  get  “inverse  cosine,”  press

.  You  should  get  the  missing  angle!

We  could  do  the  same  with  “inverse  sine”  and  “inverse  tangent.”

(c)  What’s  nice  is  that  because  the  calculator  has  a  built  in  extensive  table  of  right  triangle  ratios,  we  can  get
really  accurate  angle  measures.  Redo  the  following  problems  that  you’ve  done  before,  but  using  your
calculator.

`

(d)  For  the  following  two  problems,  write  down  three  different  things  you  could  type  on  your  calculator  to  give
you  the  missing  angle:

Super  duper  important  conclusion  #1:  Your  calculator’s  inverse  sine,  inverse  cosine,  and  inverse  tangent
buttons  are  simply  a  quick  way  to  get  an  accurate  angle  by  using  an  internal  extensive  Table  of  Right  Triangle
Ratios.  In  essence,  your  calculator  is  doing  the  work  of  looking  up  the  table  values  for  you.  Nothing  more.

Super  duper  important  conclusion  #2:  To  get  your  calculator  to  give  you  the  right  values  in  its  extensive  Table  of
Right  Triangle  Ratios,  you  input  the  ratio  of  sides  into
angle.

,  and  it  will  give  you  an  output  of  the

Next  Steps:  Taking  it  one  step  further

4.   What  are  the  similarities  and  differences  in  the  Platonic  Right  Triangles  book  and  the  Table  of  Right
Triangle  Ratios?

5.   What  are  the  similarities  and  differences  in  the  Table  of  Right  Triangle  Ratios  and  your  calculator’s
sine/cosine/tangent/inverse  sine/inverse  cosine/inverse  tangent  capabilities?

`

6.   (a)  Student  A  says  that  the  missing  side  of  the  triangle  can  be  found  by  saying:
missing side
cos(49.3o ) =
3.04
o
3.04 cos(49.3 ) = missing side

1.9823 ≈ missing side

Student  B  similarly  says:
missing side
cos(60.89o ) =
2.64
o
2.64 cos(60.89 ) = missing side

1.2843 ≈ missing side

Yikes!  Contradiction!  Explain  what  is  going  on!  Explain.

1
(b)  You  know  the  area  of  a  triangle  is   (base)(height ) .  Find  the  area  of  this  triangle.  If  you  need  a  hint,
2
1
look  at  this  footnote.

1

Are  you  sure  you  want  a  hint?  I  don’t  know.  You  might  want  to  just  continue  thinking  about  it…  No?  Okay.  Fine.  Finding  the  area  of
a  right  triangle  is  easier  than  the  area  of  a  random  triangle.  So  divide  this  triangle  into  two  right  triangles.

`

7.   Look  at  this  excerpt  of  the  Table  of  Trig  Ratios,  copied  from  above.
Angle
(degree)
21
47
80

sin(∠)

cos(∠)

tan(∠)

0.3584
0.7314
0.9848

0.9336
0.6820
0.1736

0.3839
1.0724
5.6713

(a)  Do  the  division

sin(∠)
for  the  three  angles.  What  do  you  notice?
cos(∠)

(b)  Explain  this!  (Hint:  think  about  the  geometric  meaning  of  sine,  cosine,  and  tangent)

(c)  Calculate   (sin(∠))2 + (cos(∠))2  for  the  three  angles.  What  do  you  notice?

`

(d)  Explain  this!

8.   Find  the  missing  length  x.

9.   Find  the  length  of  CD,  if  angle  BAD  is  33  degrees,  and  BAC  is  30  degrees.

`