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[Brilliant Blog] Trigonometric Identities

This post discussus the above hexagon.Note that: \( \frac {1}{ \sin \theta} = \csc \theta \), which is sometimes denoted as cosec \( \theta \). Either version is valid, and we will be using \( \csc \) in this post.

This post is targeted at a level 2 user. You should have read Trigonometric Functions.

When students are first exposed to trigonometric identities, they are often given a list of formulas, which they are asked to memorize. Here is a way for you to remember many of these ideas:

Start by drawing a regular hexagon and connect each of the vertices to the center. In the left most vertex, label it \( \tan \). In the bottom left vertex, label it \( \sin \), in the bottom right vertex, label it \( \cos \). In the center, label it 1. Now, to figure out what to label the remaining vertices, simply look at the diagonally opposite vertex and label it as the reciprocal. You should get the diagram above.

Now, let's figure out some properties of this hexagon.

Property 1: How do the labels on the endpoints of a diameter relate? Recall that to establish the labels, we labelled the diagonally opposite vertex as the reciprocal. Hence, the product of the labels on a diameter is 1, which corresponds to the center vertex.

Property 2: How do we relate vertices that are connected by edges? Consider the central vertex 1. Moving directly to the left is equivalent to multiplying by \( \tan \), moving to the lower right is equivalent to multiplying by \( \cos \), moving to the lower left is equivalent to multiplying by \( \sin \). This seems obvious when we're at vertex 1, and in fact holds true for any other vertex. For example, moving left from \( \cos\) brings us to \( \sin\), which corresponds to \( \cos \theta \times \tan \theta = \sin \theta \). There are similar statements for moving to the right, upper left and upper right (see Test Yourself 1).

Property 3: What property do we get when reading off the 3 vertices in an anti-clockwise manner? With our 3 starting vertices, we know that \( \tan \theta = \frac {\sin \theta} { \cos \theta} \). This behavior holds true for the rest, that the first vertex is equal to the second divided by the third. For example, another set of 3 vertices is \( \cos, \cot, \csc \), and you should be able to verify that \( \cos \theta = \frac { \cot \theta} { \csc \theta} \).

Property 4: Recall the Pythagorean identity which states that \( \sin^2 \theta + \cos ^2 \theta = 1^2 \). How is this expressed in the hexagon? If we look at the bottom upright triangle, we see it it has vertices of \( \sin, \cos \) at the base, and \( 1 \) at the top. In fact, given any other upright triangle, a similar relation holds. For example, with the right upright triangle, we get \( 1^2 + \cot ^2 \theta = \csc ^2 \theta \), and with the left upright triangle, we get \( \tan^2 \theta + 1 = \sec^2 \theta \).

Worked Examples

1. What is \( \frac {\sec \theta} { \tan \theta} \)?

Solution: By property 3, we know that \( \csc \theta = \frac { \sec \theta} { \tan \theta} \).

2. Why does property 4 hold?

Solution: We already know that \( \sin ^2 \theta + \cos^2 \theta = 1^2 \). Consider what happens when we shift this triangle to the upper right. We are simply multiplying each vertex by \( \sec \theta \). Hence, the equivalent identity is that \( \sec^2 \theta [ \sin ^2 \theta + \cos^2 \theta] = \sec^2 \theta \cdot 1^2 \), which becomes \( \tan^2 \theta + 1^2 = \sec^2 \theta \).

3. What other properties are there?

Solution: This is an open ended question. There are as many properties as you can find for yourself. I'd state one more, which is related to property 3 (and actually is simply a different way of expressing the same idea).

Property 5: If we read a set of 3 vertices off in a clockwise-order, we get that the first vertex is equal to the second over the third. For example, \( \sin, \tan , \sec \) are 3 consecutive vertices in clockwise order, so this property gives us that \( \sin \theta = \frac { \tan \theta} { \sec \theta} \).

Test Yourself

  1. In this hexagon, moving to the right is equivalent to multiplying by what trigonometric function?

  2. What is \( \frac { \tan \theta} { \sec \theta} \)?

  3. Dividing by \( \tan \theta \) is equivalent to multiplying by what trigonometric function? How is this expressed by movement along the edges of the hexagon?

  4. Explain why properties 3 and 5 hold. Hint: Property 2.

  5. How many other properties can you find?

Note by Calvin Lin
4 years, 1 month ago

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I'm fairly certain the reciprocal function of cosine is secant, not cosecant. Is this a special case or something? Alex Koladude · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Alex Koladude Whoops! Thanks for noticing Alex. It was just a simple typo at the top, not a special case. It has since been changed to \(\frac{1}{\sin \theta} = \csc \theta \) Peter Taylor Staff · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Alex Koladude No special case, you are correct. Ahaan Rungta · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Ahaan Rungta True Nageswari Mca · 4 years, 1 month ago

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Brilliant method, Master Calvin to understand about concept of Trigonometry :)) Thanks.. Andrias Yuwantoko · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Andrias Yuwantoko

 As far as i know, this method was not made by Mr. Calvin himself. It's just that the way you say it makes Mr. Calvin the one who discovered the method as mentioned above. Just to clarify things up.
Alain Caesar Torre · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Alain Caesar Torre I do not know of anyone else who introduces trig identities with this way, though I see that someone has called it the 'tansincos hexagon'. The only way that I know trig identities is introduced, is via a long formula sheet. I came up with this 10+ years ago during high school, when my classmates were having trouble memorizing them. Of course, that's not to say that other people can't also come up with this.

I've shown it to lots of students and teachers since then, and they were amazed that it works. I've even sat in on a trig identities class at a high school, took 5 minutes to explain this, and wowed the teacher and department head.

It is a good test of your understanding of trig functions, if you can explain why the hexagon 'works'.especially with properties 3 and 5 which seem really basic.

Edit: I did a Google search for 'tansincos hexagon' and got <10 relevant results. Also, they all have \(\sin\) and \(\cos\) at the top, whereas I've always introduced it at the bottom (because I feel that \(\sin^2 + \cos^2 = 1 \) makes more sense that way). . It's good to know that others are introducing trig identities in a more concise way. Calvin Lin Staff · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Calvin Lin i have learned this when i was in high school too and this was published in the textbook we're using then,,,, Mervin Bueno · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Mervin Bueno That's good to know. Calvin Lin Staff · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Calvin Lin but i appreciate you sir Calvin for posting this blog,,,,i'm a teacher now in mathematics and i used to require my students to have an account in brilliant. i could have suggest them to visit this blog for more information,,,,heheh Mervin Bueno · 4 years, 1 month ago

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@Alain Caesar Torre Sorry, My clarification, I don't know before about this method to understand the Trig Identities. In High School, my teacher never learned about that method, just used the triangle. So sorry to say that method from Master Calvin.. Andrias Yuwantoko · 4 years, 1 month ago

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its really good to know these hints...thanku.. Shubham Agrawal · 4 years, 1 month ago

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soh cah toa Karthik.Ps Sharma · 4 years, 1 month ago

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master maind Anuj Kushwaha · 4 years, 1 month ago

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we use to call this tansincos hexagon Mervin Bueno · 4 years, 1 month ago

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Awesome

juz by reading this blog one can get familiar with the basics of trigonometry..... Riya Gupta · 4 years, 1 month ago

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wow,fantastic method, tanks :) Ronaldo Matos · 4 years, 1 month ago

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Nice method. Falensius Nango · 4 years, 1 month ago

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2: sinθ Dipayan Dipto · 4 years, 1 month ago

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Nice Beakal Tiliksew · 4 years, 1 month ago

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