Law of cosines
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- | The law of cosines is a formula that helps in | + | The law of cosines is a formula that helps in solving triangles when two or three side lengths of a triangle are known. The formula combines the squares of two side lengths of a triangle and some offset, classified by the cosine of a particular angle, to calculate the square of the third side. For this reason, the law of cosines is often thought of as the generalization of the Pythagorean theorem, which only applies to right triangles. The law of cosines adds an extra term to the Pythagorean theorem so that a third side length of a triangle can be determined when there is no right angle. |
- | particular angle. | + | |
- | <math> c^{2} = a^{2} + b^{2} - 2ab \cos C </math> | + | ::<math> c^{2} = a^{2} + b^{2} - 2ab \cos C </math> |
When to use it: SAS, SSS. | When to use it: SAS, SSS. | ||
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==Proof== | ==Proof== | ||
+ | ===By the Pythagorean Theorem=== | ||
+ | An easy way to think of the law of cosines is as an extension of the Pythagorean theorem: | ||
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+ | ::<math>a^{2} + b^{2} = c^{2} </math> | ||
+ | |||
+ | [[Image:Pythagorean_cosines_proof.jpg]] | ||
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+ | ===Using the Distance Formula=== | ||
Let <math> \vartriangle ABC </math> be oriented so that <math> C</math> is at the origin, and <math> B</math> is at the point<math> (a,0)</math>. | Let <math> \vartriangle ABC </math> be oriented so that <math> C</math> is at the origin, and <math> B</math> is at the point<math> (a,0)</math>. | ||
[[Image:Law_of_cosines_proof.jpg]] | [[Image:Law_of_cosines_proof.jpg]] | ||
- | |||
<math> distance = \sqrt {(x_{2}-x_{1})^{2} + (y_{2}-y_{1})^{2}}</math> | <math> distance = \sqrt {(x_{2}-x_{1})^{2} + (y_{2}-y_{1})^{2}}</math> | ||
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Since <math> \cos^{2} C + \sin^{2} C = 1</math>, | Since <math> \cos^{2} C + \sin^{2} C = 1</math>, | ||
- | <math> c = \sqrt { | + | <math> c = \sqrt {a^{2}+b^{2}-2ab \cos C+b^{2}}</math> |
Square both sides for | Square both sides for | ||
- | <math> c^{2} = | + | <math> c^{2} = a^{2}+b^{2}-2ab \cos C+b^{2}</math> |
- | ==Example | + | ==Example Problem== |
Complete the triangle using the law of cosines. | Complete the triangle using the law of cosines. | ||
Revision as of 10:53, 3 June 2011
Law of Cosines |
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Law of Cosines
- The law of cosines is a trigonometric extension of the Pythagorean Theorem.
Contents |
Basic Description
The law of cosines is a formula that helps in solving triangles when two or three side lengths of a triangle are known. The formula combines the squares of two side lengths of a triangle and some offset, classified by the cosine of a particular angle, to calculate the square of the third side. For this reason, the law of cosines is often thought of as the generalization of the Pythagorean theorem, which only applies to right triangles. The law of cosines adds an extra term to the Pythagorean theorem so that a third side length of a triangle can be determined when there is no right angle.When to use it: SAS, SSS.
A More Mathematical Explanation
Proof
By the Pythagorean Theorem
An easy way to think of the law of cosines is as an extension of the Pythagorean theorem:
Using the Distance Formula
Let be oriented so that is at the origin, and is at the point.
is the distance from to .
Substituting the appropriate points into the distance formula gives us
Squaring the inner terms, we have
Since ,
Square both sides for
Example Problem
Complete the triangle using the law of cosines.
Solution
Teaching Materials
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