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Using the graphs of trigonometric functions to solve real-world problems

Many real-world scenarios represent periodic functions and may be modeled by trigonometric functions. As an example, let’s return to the scenario from the section opener. Have you ever observed the beam formed by the rotating light on a police car and wondered about the movement of the light beam itself across the wall? The periodic behavior of the distance the light shines as a function of time is obvious, but how do we determine the distance? We can use the tangent function .

Using trigonometric functions to solve real-world scenarios

Suppose the function y = 5 tan ( π 4 t ) marks the distance in the movement of a light beam from the top of a police car across a wall where t is the time in seconds and y is the distance in feet from a point on the wall directly across from the police car.

  1. Find and interpret the stretching factor and period.
  2. Graph on the interval [ 0 , 5 ] .
  3. Evaluate f ( 1 ) and discuss the function’s value at that input.
  1. We know from the general form of y = A tan ( B t ) that | A | is the stretching factor and π B is the period.
    A graph showing that variable A is the coefficient of the tangent function and variable B is the coefficient of x, which is within that tangent function.

    We see that the stretching factor is 5. This means that the beam of light will have moved 5 ft after half the period.

    The period is π π 4 = π 1 4 π = 4. This means that every 4 seconds, the beam of light sweeps the wall. The distance from the spot across from the police car grows larger as the police car approaches.

  2. To graph the function, we draw an asymptote at t = 2 and use the stretching factor and period. See [link]
    A graph of one period of a modified tangent function, with a vertical asymptote at x=4.
  3. period: f ( 1 ) = 5 tan ( π 4 ( 1 ) ) = 5 ( 1 ) = 5 ; after 1 second, the beam of has moved 5 ft from the spot across from the police car.
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Access these online resources for additional instruction and practice with graphs of other trigonometric functions.

Key equations

Shifted, compressed, and/or stretched tangent function y = A tan ( B x C ) + D
Shifted, compressed, and/or stretched secant function y = A sec ( B x C ) + D
Shifted, compressed, and/or stretched cosecant function y = A csc ( B x C ) + D
Shifted, compressed, and/or stretched cotangent function y = A cot ( B x C ) + D

Key concepts

  • The tangent function has period π .
  • f ( x ) = A tan ( B x C ) + D is a tangent with vertical and/or horizontal stretch/compression and shift. See [link] , [link] , and [link] .
  • The secant and cosecant are both periodic functions with a period of 2 π . f ( x ) = A sec ( B x C ) + D gives a shifted, compressed, and/or stretched secant function graph. See [link] and [link] .
  • f ( x ) = A csc ( B x C ) + D gives a shifted, compressed, and/or stretched cosecant function graph. See [link] and [link] .
  • The cotangent function has period π and vertical asymptotes at 0 , ± π , ± 2 π , ... .
  • The range of cotangent is ( , ) , and the function is decreasing at each point in its range.
  • The cotangent is zero at ± π 2 , ± 3 π 2 , ... .
  • f ( x ) = A cot ( B x C ) + D is a cotangent with vertical and/or horizontal stretch/compression and shift. See [link] and [link] .
  • Real-world scenarios can be solved using graphs of trigonometric functions. See [link] .

Section exercises


Explain how the graph of the sine function can be used to graph y = csc x .

Since y = csc x is the reciprocal function of y = sin x , you can plot the reciprocal of the coordinates on the graph of y = sin x to obtain the y -coordinates of y = csc x . The x -intercepts of the graph y = sin x are the vertical asymptotes for the graph of y = csc x .

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Questions & Answers

If the plane intersects the cone (either above or below) horizontally, what figure will be created?
Feemark Reply
can you not take the square root of a negative number
Sharon Reply
No because a negative times a negative is a positive. No matter what you do you can never multiply the same number by itself and end with a negative
Actually you can. you get what's called an Imaginary number denoted by i which is represented on the complex plane. The reply above would be correct if we were still confined to the "real" number line.
Suppose P= {-3,1,3} Q={-3,-2-1} and R= {-2,2,3}.what is the intersection
Elaine Reply
can I get some pretty basic questions
Ama Reply
In what way does set notation relate to function notation
is precalculus needed to take caculus
Amara Reply
It depends on what you already know. Just test yourself with some precalculus questions. If you find them easy, you're good to go.
the solution doesn't seem right for this problem
Mars Reply
what is the domain of f(x)=x-4/x^2-2x-15 then
Conney Reply
x is different from -5&3
All real x except 5 and - 3
how to prroved cos⁴x-sin⁴x= cos²x-sin²x are equal
jeric Reply
Don't think that you can.
By using some imaginary no.
how do you provided cos⁴x-sin⁴x = cos²x-sin²x are equal
jeric Reply
What are the question marks for?
Someone should please solve it for me Add 2over ×+3 +y-4 over 5 simplify (×+a)with square root of two -×root 2 all over a multiply 1over ×-y{(×-y)(×+y)} over ×y
Abena Reply
For the first question, I got (3y-2)/15 Second one, I got Root 2 Third one, I got 1/(y to the fourth power) I dont if it's right cause I can barely understand the question.
Is under distribute property, inverse function, algebra and addition and multiplication function; so is a combined question
find the equation of the line if m=3, and b=-2
Ashley Reply
graph the following linear equation using intercepts method. 2x+y=4
ok, one moment
how do I post your graph for you?
it won't let me send an image?
also for the first one... y=mx+b so.... y=3x-2
y=mx+b you were already given the 'm' and 'b'. so.. y=3x-2
Please were did you get y=mx+b from
y=mx+b is the formula of a straight line. where m = the slope & b = where the line crosses the y-axis. In this case, being that the "m" and "b", are given, all you have to do is plug them into the formula to complete the equation.
thanks Tommy
0=3x-2 2=3x x=3/2 then . y=3/2X-2 I think
co ordinates for x x=0,(-2,0) x=1,(1,1) x=2,(2,4)
"7"has an open circle and "10"has a filled in circle who can I have a set builder notation
Fiston Reply
Where do the rays point?
x=-b+_Гb2-(4ac) ______________ 2a
Ahlicia Reply
I've run into this: x = r*cos(angle1 + angle2) Which expands to: x = r(cos(angle1)*cos(angle2) - sin(angle1)*sin(angle2)) The r value confuses me here, because distributing it makes: (r*cos(angle2))(cos(angle1) - (r*sin(angle2))(sin(angle1)) How does this make sense? Why does the r distribute once
Carlos Reply
so good
this is an identity when 2 adding two angles within a cosine. it's called the cosine sum formula. there is also a different formula when cosine has an angle minus another angle it's called the sum and difference formulas and they are under any list of trig identities
strategies to form the general term
consider r(a+b) = ra + rb. The a and b are the trig identity.
How can you tell what type of parent function a graph is ?
Mary Reply
generally by how the graph looks and understanding what the base parent functions look like and perform on a graph
if you have a graphed line, you can have an idea by how the directions of the line turns, i.e. negative, positive, zero
y=x will obviously be a straight line with a zero slope
y=x^2 will have a parabolic line opening to positive infinity on both sides of the y axis vice versa with y=-x^2 you'll have both ends of the parabolic line pointing downward heading to negative infinity on both sides of the y axis
y=x will be a straight line, but it will have a slope of one. Remember, if y=1 then x=1, so for every unit you rise you move over positively one unit. To get a straight line with a slope of 0, set y=1 or any integer.
yes, correction on my end, I meant slope of 1 instead of slope of 0

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