TRIGONOMETRIC
EQUATIONS
Firstly recall the graphs of y = sin x, y = cos x and y = tan x.
y = sin x
Note: sin x is positive
for 0 < x < 180,
and negative for
180 < x < 360.
y = cos x
Note: cos x is positive
for 0 x < 90, and
for 270 < x 360
and negative for
90 < x < 270.
y = tan x
Note: tan x is positive
for 0 < x < 90, and
for 180 < x < 270
and negative for
90 < x < 180. and
for 270 < x < 360.
We can summarise the information in the following diagram:
90
sin +ve
sin +ve
cos ve
cos +ve
tan ve
tan +ve
180
0 , 360
sin ve
sin ve
cos ve
cos +ve
tan +ve
tan ve
270
This can be simplified to show just the positive ratios:
90
S
sin +ve
all +ve
or just:
180
0, 360
T
cos +ve
tan +ve
270
A
C
N.B. You may find a mnemonic will
help you memorise the positions.
SolvingTrigonometricEquations
CASTRule
QuadrantII
Sine
Tangent
QuadrantIII
QuadrantI
All
Cosine
QuadrantIV
Findthemeasureof 0 <3600
a)cos =0.6691
b)tan =1.2435
Thereferenceangleis480.
Thereferenceangleis510.
Theangle isfound
Theangle isfound
inQuadrantsIIandIII.
inQuadrantsIandIII.
1320and2280
510and2310
5.2.2
Solving Trigonometric Equations
with a Given Interval
Example : Solve sin x = 0.5; 360 < x 360
The sine of an angle is negative in the 3rd and 4th quadrants.
= sin1 0.5 = 30
N.B. The negative is ignored
to find the acute angle.
Hence the solutions in the given range are:
x = 150, 30, 210,
330
In problems where the angle is not simply x, the given range
will need to be adjusted.
The positive ratio diagram can be used to solve trigonometric equations:
Example :
Using:
Solve cos x = 0.5; 0 x < 360
S A
T C
We can see that the cosine of an
angle is positive in the two quadrants
on the right, i.e. the 1st and 4th
quadrants.
= cos1 0.5 = 60
Hence the solutions in the given range are:
x = 60, 360 60
so x = 60, 300
Example 3: Solve 3 + 5 tan 2x = 0; 0 x 360.
Firstly we need to make tan 2x the subject of the equation:
3
tan 2x =
5
The tangent of an angle is negative in the 2nd and 4th quadrants.
tan 1
= 30.96
5
The range must be adjusted for the angle 2x. i.e. 0 2x 720.
Hence: 2x = 149.04, 329.04, 509.04, 689.04.
x = 74.5, 164.5, 254.5, 344.5.
Solve Trigonometric Equations
Trig equations are usually solved for a
values of the variable between 0 degrees
and 360 degrees.
But there are solutions outside that interval.
These other solutions differ by integral
multiples of the period of the function
1
2
sin x = is a trigonometric equation.
x = 6 is one of infinitely many solutions of y = sin x.
y
19
6
3
11
6
7
6
5
6
2 
13
6
17
6
2 3
25
6
4
1
x y=2
1
All the solutions for x can be expressed in the form of
a general solution.
x = + 2k and x = 5 + 2k (k = 0, 1, 2, 3, ).
6
Example: Solve tan x = 1.
The graph of y = 1 intersects the graph of y = tan x infinitely
y
many times.
 2
4

4
+ + 2
4
+ 3
y=1

y = tan(x)
x = 3 x = 
2
2
x = x = 3 x = 5
2
2
2
Points of intersection are at x = and every multiple of added or
4
subtracted from 4 .
General solution: x = + k for k any integer.
4
Example:
Solve the equation 3sin x + 2 = sin x for x .
2
3sin x + 2 = sin x
3sin x sin x + 2 = 0
2sin x + 2 = 0
sin x =
2
2
Collect like terms.

1 4
y=
x = 4 is the only solution in the interval 2 x 2 .
2
2
Solving Second Degree (Quadratic)
Trigonometric Equations
Notes
Solving Second Degree Equations
Example:
Solve. 0 x 360
tan2x 3tanx 4 = 0
let x = tan x
x2 3x 4 = 0
(x 4)(x + 1) = 0
x4=0
x=4
x+1=0
x = 1
tan x = 4
tan x = 1
x = 76
x = 256
x = 135
x = 315
Solving Second Degree Equations
Example:
Solve. 0 x 360
3cos2x 5cosx = 4
let x = cos x
3x2 5x 4 = 0
x
b b2 4ac
x
2a
5 73
6
x 2.26
x 0.59
x
5 2 4 3 4
2 3
Solving Second Degree Equations
x = 2.26
x = 0.59
cos x = 2.26 cos x = 0.59
x=
x = 234
x = 126
Solving Second Degree Equations
Example: Solve. 0 x 360
2cos2x = cosx
let x = cos x
2x2 = x
2x2 x = 0
x(2x 1) = 0
x = 0 2x 1 = 0
x = .5
cos x = 0
cos x = .5
x = 90
x = 270
x = 270
Solving Second Degree Equations
Example:
Solve. 0 x 360
3sinx + 4 = 1/sinx
let x = sin x
3x + 4 = 1/x
x(3x + 4) = x(1/x)
3x2 + 4x = 1
(3x 1)(x + 1) = 0
Solving Second Degree Equations
3x  1= 0 x + 1 = 0
x = .333 x = 1
sin x = .333
x = 19
x = 161
sin x = 1
x = 270
Solving Second Degree Equations
Example:
Solve. 0 x 360
2cos2x sinx = 1
Use the identity cos2x = 1 sin2x
2 (1 sin2x) sinx = 1
2 2sin2x sinx = 1
2sin2x sinx + 1 = 0
2sin2x + sinx  1 = 0
Solving Second Degree Equations
2sin2x + sinx  1 = 0
let x = sin x
2x2 + x  1 = 0
(2x  1)(x + 1) = 0
2x  1 = 0
x = x = 1
x+1=0
sin x =
x = 30
x = 150
sin x = 1
x = 270
The trigonometric equation 2 sin2 + 3 sin + 1 = 0 is
quadratic in form.
2 sin2 + 3 sin + 1 = 0 implies that
(2 sin + 1)(sin + 1) = 0.
Therefore, 2 sin + 1 = 0 or sin + 1 = 0.
It follows that sin =  1 or sin = 1.
2
Solutions:
=  + 2k and = 7 + 2k, from sin =  1
6
6
2
=  + 2k, from sin = 1
Example: Solve 8 sin = 3 cos2 with in the
interval [0, 2].
Rewrite the equation in terms of only one trigonometric function.
8 sin = 3(1 sin2 )
Use the Pythagorean Identity.
3 sin2 + 8 sin 3 = 0.
A quadratic equation with sin x
as the variable
(3 sin 1)(sin + 3) = 0 Factor.
Therefore, 3 sin 1 = 0 or sin + 3 = 0
Solutions: sin = 1 or sin = 3
3
= sin1( 1 ) = 0.3398 and = sin1( 1) = 2.8107.
3
3
s
Solve: 5cos2 + cos 3 = 0 for 0 .
The equation is quadratic. Let y = cos and solve 5y2 + y 3 = 0.
y = (1 61 ) = 0.6810249 or 0.8810249
10
Therefore, cos = 0.6810249 or 0.8810249.
Use the calculator to find values of in 0 .
This is the range of the inverse cosine function.
The solutions are:
= cos 1(0.6810249 ) = 0.8216349 and
= cos 1(0.8810249) = 2.6488206
Example:
Solve 6 sin2 x + sin x 1 = 0; 0 x < 360
A quadratic equation!
It may help to abbreviate sin x with s:
i.e. 6s2 + s 1 = 0
Factorising this:
(3s 1)(2s + 1)= 0
1
sin x
3
= 19.47
or
1
sin x
2
= 30
So, x = 19.5, 160.5, 210, 330. (To nearest 0.1.)
Summary of key points:
To solve a Trigonometric Equation:
Rearrange the equation to make sin, cos or tan of
some angle the subject.
Locate the quadrants in which the ratio is positive,
or negative as required.
Using:
S A
T C
Adjust the range for the given angle.
Read off all the solutions within the range.
This PowerPoint produced by R. Collins; ZigZag Education 20082010