You are here:
OakRoadSystems → Home → Articles → Math →
Trig without Tears
 → 3/Special Angles

Trig without Tears Part 3:

Functions of Special Angles

revised 13 Apr 2014
Copyright © 1997–2014 Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems

Summary: You need to know the function values of certain special angles, namely 30° (π/6), 45° (π/4), and 60° (π/3). You also need to be able to go backward and know what angle has a sine of ½ or a tangent of −√3. While it’s easy to work them out as you go (using easy right triangles), you really need to memorize them because you’ll use them so often that deriving them or looking them up every time would really slow you down.

Functions of 45°

triangle A=45, B=45, C=90, c=1 Look at this 45-45-90° triangle, which means sides a and b are equal. By the Pythagorean theorem,

a² + b² = c²

But a = b and c = 1; therefore

2a² = 1

a² = 1/2

a = 1/√2 = (√2)/2

Since a = sin 45°,

sin 45° = (√2)/2

Also, b = cos 45° and b = a; therefore

cos 45° = (√2)/2

Use the definition of tan A, equation 3 or equation 4:

tan 45° = a/b = 1


(14) sin 45° = cos 45° = (√2)/2

tan 45° = 1


Functions of 30° and 60°

equilateral triangle, side=1, bisected vertically; bisector=a, angle A=60 Now look at this diagram. I’ve drawn two 30-60-90° triangles back to back, so that the two 30° angles are next to each other. Since 2×30° = 60°, the big triangle is a 60-60-60° equilateral triangle. Each of the small triangles has hypotenuse 1, so the length 2b is also 1, which means that

b = ½2s

But b also equals cos 60°, and therefore

cos 60° = ½

You can find a, which is sin 60°, by using the Pythagorean theorem:

(½)² + a² = c² = 1

1/4 + a² = 1

a² = 3/4 ⇒ a = (√3)/2

Since a = sin 60°, sin 60° = (√3)/2.

Since you know the sine and cosine of 60°, you can easily use the cofunction identities (equation 2) to get the cosine and sine of 30°:

cos 30° = sin(90°−30°) = sin 60° = (√3)/2

sin 30° = cos(90°−30°) = cos 60° = 1/2

As before, use the definition of the tangent to find the tangents of 30° and 60° from the sines and cosines:

tan 30° = sin 30° / cos 30°

tan 30° = (1/2) / ((√3)/2)

tan 30° = 1 / √3 = (√3)/3

and

tan 60° = sin 60° / cos 60°

tan 60° = ((√3)/2) / (1/2)

tan 60° = √3

The values of the trig functions of 30° and 60° can be summarized like this:


(15) sin 30° = ½, sin 60° = (√3)/2

cos 30° = (√3)/2, cos 60° = ½

tan 30° = (√3)/3, tan 60° = √3


Mnemonic for All Special Angles

Incidentally, the sines and cosines of 0, 30°, 45°, 60° and 90° display a pleasing pattern:


(16) for angle A = 0, 30° (π/6), 45° (π/4), 60° (π/3), 90° (π/2):

sin A = (√0)/2, (√1)/2, (√2)/2, (√3)/2, (√4)/2

cos A = (√4)/2, (√3)/2, (√2)/2, (√1)/2, (√0)/2

tan A = 0, (√3)/3, 1, √3, undefined


It’s not surprising that the cosine pattern is a mirror image of the sine pattern, since sin(90°−A) = cos A.

next:  4/Functions of Any Angle


this page:  http://oakroadsystems.com/twt/special.htm

Donate via PayPal

Was this page useful? Visit my other Math Articles.
Want to show your appreciation? Please donate a few bucks to the author.