A-level Mathematics/OCR/C2/Trigonometric Functions

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The Trigonometric Ratios Of An Angle[edit]

Trigonometry triangle.svg

We use the triangle on the left to define the three basic trigonometric ratios, using angle A. A good mnemonic is the acronym SOHCAHTOA, Sin Opposite Hypotenuse, Cosine Adjacent Hypotenuse, Tangent Opposite Adjacent. Remember if you are using a calculator to obtain the value of a trigonometric ratio make sure that it is in the proper mode; it should be in radian mode if the angle is in radians and degree mode if the angle is in degrees. You can find the angle that corresponds to a value using the inverse of each function usually listed as \cos ^{-1}, \sin ^{-1}, \tan ^{-1} on your calculator, a formal discussion of the inverse trigonometric functions will be in Core 3. The vertical blue dashed lines in the tangent graph are the asymptotes of the tangent function. The tangent function will not be defined at these points because at these points the cosine graph is zero, see the tangent identity.

Function Written Defined Graph
Cosine \cos \theta\, \frac{Adjacent}{Hypotenuse}

Sine cosine plot.svg

Sine \sin \theta\, \frac{Opposite}{Hypotenuse}
Tangent \tan \theta\, \frac{Opposite}{Adjacent} Tan.svg

The CAST Model[edit]


The Cast Model is used to show in which quadrant a trigonometric ratio will be positive. A mnemonic is All Students Take Core 4. The four indicates that Cosine is in the fourth quadrant. Also you need to know that sin(x) = sin(π rad or 180° - x) = c, cos(x) = cos(2π rad or 360° - x) = c, and tan(x) = tan(1.5π rad or 270° - x)= c. This is important to remember because if sin(x) = 1/2, and it is between 0° and 360° then x can be 30° or 150°.

Important Trigonometric Values[edit]

Unit circle angles.svg

Below is a table with the common trigonometric values (The circle is labelled with the same values), you need to have these values memorized.

\theta\, rad\, \sin \theta\, \cos \theta\, \tan \theta\,
0^\circ 0 0 1 0
30^\circ \frac{\pi}{6} \frac{1}{2} \frac{\sqrt{3}}{2} \frac{1}{\sqrt{3}}
45^\circ \frac{\pi}{4} \frac{
\sqrt{2}}{2} \frac{\sqrt{2}}{2} 1\,
60^\circ \frac{\pi}{3} \frac{
\sqrt{3}}{2} \frac{1}{2} \sqrt{3}
90^\circ \frac{\pi}{2} 1 0 None

The Law of Cosines[edit]

Theorem of cosin.svg

Pythagoras theory only applies to right triangles, the law of cosines will apply to any triangle. When you have a right triangle it reduces to the same formula as given by Pythagoras theorem. For any triangle ABC with angle measurement \alpha, \beta, \gamma and sides of length a,b,c.

a^2=b^2 + c^2 - 2bc \cos \alpha \,
b^2=a^2 + c^2 - 2ac \cos \beta \,
c^2=a^2 + b^2 - 2ab \cos \gamma \,


What is the value of c when a = 4 cm, b = 8 cm, and \gamma is equal to 64^\circ.

c^2=4^2 + 8^2 - 2 \times 4 \times 8 \cos 64^\circ \,

c^2 = 53\,

c \approx 7.28\ cm

The Law of Sines[edit]

For any triangle ABC with angle measurement \alpha, \beta, \gamma and sides of length a,b,c.

\frac {a}{\sin \alpha} = \frac{b}{\sin \beta} = \frac {c}{\sin \gamma}


If Angle α is 45^\circ, Angle β is 24^\circ and Side b is 3 cm, what is the length of side a?

\frac {a}{\sin 45^\circ} = \frac{3}{\sin 24^\circ}

a \times \sin 24^\circ = 3 \times \sin 45^\circ

a= \frac{3 \times \sin 45^\circ}{\sin 24^\circ} \approx 5.22\ \mbox{cm}

Area of a Triangle[edit]

For any triangle the area is one-half the product of two sides with the sine of the included angle. If the included angle is a right angle, then this reduces to the formula for the area of a right triangle, since \sin 90^\circ= 1

Area = \frac{1}{2}bc \sin \alpha \,

Area = \frac{1}{2}ac \sin \beta \,

Area = \frac{1}{2}ab \sin \gamma \,


What is the area of triangle when a = 4 cm, b = 8 cm, and \gamma is equal to 20^\circ.

Area = \frac{1}{2}\times 4 \times 8 \times \sin 20^\circ\, \approx 5.47\ \mbox{cm}^2

Pythagoras Identity[edit]

\sin ^2 \theta + \cos ^2 \theta = 1 \,


We use the pythagorean theory:

a^2 + b^2 = c^2\,

Now we divide by c^2:

\frac {a^2}{c^2} + \frac {b^2}{c^2} = \frac {c^2}{c^2}\,

We get:

\frac {a^2}{c^2} + \frac {b^2}{c^2} = 1\,

We can write this as:

\sin ^2 \theta + \cos ^2 \theta = 1 \,

A good way to think of this of is opposite^2 + adjacent^2 = hypotenuse^2 = \frac{opposite^2}{hypotenuse^2} + \frac{adjacent^2}{hypotenuse^2} = 1

A Practical Example[edit]

Find all the values of x between 0 rad and 2π rad that satisfy the relationship 15\sin^2\left(x\right) = \cos\left(x\right) + 13.

Using the Pythagoras Identity we get:

15\left(1 - \cos^2\left(x\right)\right) = \cos\left(x\right) + 13

Now we can simplify:

15\cos^2\left(x\right) - \cos\left(x\right) - 2 = 0

It is more covinent to replace cos(x) with u:

15u^2 - u - 2 = 0\,

Then we factor the expression

\left(5u + 2\right)\left(3u - 1\right) = 0

\cos\left(x\right) = \frac{-2}{5}\ or\ \frac{1}{3}

In order to determine what x is we need to use \cos^{-1}\left(x\right) on our calculators.

\cos^{-1}\left(\frac{-2}{5}\right) \approx 1.9823\ rad

\cos^{-1}\left(\frac{1}{3}\right) \approx 1.2310\ rad

But we need to remember that in the interval 2π the cosine function will have the same in 2π - x.

2π rad - 1.2310 rad = 5.0222 rad

2π rad - 1.9823 rad = 4.3009 rad

So the complete answer is 1.2310 rad, 1.9823 rad, 4.3009 rad, and 5.0222 rad.

Tangent Identity[edit]

\tan \theta = \frac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}


\tan \theta = \frac{a}{b}

Then we can divide both the numerator and the denominator by c

\tan \theta = \frac {\frac {a}{c}}{ \frac {b}{c}}

We can write this as:

\tan \theta = \frac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}


sin(x) = 4cos(x) solve for sin(x). All units are in radians.

We divide both sides by cos x and we get the identity


We use the tan^{-1}(x) to get that x = 1.3258 rad.

Now we can solve for sin(x):

sin(x) = 4cos(1.3258 rad) = 4*.2425 rad = .9701 rad .

This is part of the C2 (Core Mathematics 2) module of the A-level Mathematics text.

Dividing and Factoring Polynomials / Sequences and Series / Logarithms and Exponentials / Circles and Angles / Integration

Appendix A: Formulae