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In this section, you will:
  • Solve linear trigonometric equations in sine and cosine.
  • Solve equations involving a single trigonometric function.
  • Solve trigonometric equations using a calculator.
  • Solve trigonometric equations that are quadratic in form.
  • Solve trigonometric equations using fundamental identities.
  • Solve trigonometric equations with multiple angles.
  • Solve right triangle problems.
Photo of the Egyptian pyramids near a modern city.
Egyptian pyramids standing near a modern city. (credit: Oisin Mulvihill)

Thales of Miletus (circa 625–547 BC) is known as the founder of geometry. The legend is that he calculated the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt using the theory of similar triangles , which he developed by measuring the shadow of his staff. Based on proportions, this theory has applications in a number of areas, including fractal geometry, engineering, and architecture. Often, the angle of elevation and the angle of depression are found using similar triangles.

In earlier sections of this chapter, we looked at trigonometric identities. Identities are true for all values in the domain of the variable. In this section, we begin our study of trigonometric equations to study real-world scenarios such as the finding the dimensions of the pyramids.

Solving linear trigonometric equations in sine and cosine

Trigonometric equations are, as the name implies, equations that involve trigonometric functions. Similar in many ways to solving polynomial equations or rational equations, only specific values of the variable will be solutions, if there are solutions at all. Often we will solve a trigonometric equation over a specified interval. However, just as often, we will be asked to find all possible solutions, and as trigonometric functions are periodic, solutions are repeated within each period. In other words, trigonometric equations may have an infinite number of solutions. Additionally, like rational equations, the domain of the function must be considered before we assume that any solution is valid. The period    of both the sine function and the cosine function is 2 π . In other words, every 2 π units, the y- values repeat. If we need to find all possible solutions, then we must add 2 π k , where k is an integer, to the initial solution. Recall the rule that gives the format for stating all possible solutions for a function where the period is 2 π :

sin θ = sin ( θ ± 2 k π )

There are similar rules for indicating all possible solutions for the other trigonometric functions. Solving trigonometric equations requires the same techniques as solving algebraic equations. We read the equation from left to right, horizontally, like a sentence. We look for known patterns, factor, find common denominators, and substitute certain expressions with a variable to make solving a more straightforward process. However, with trigonometric equations, we also have the advantage of using the identities we developed in the previous sections.

Solving a linear trigonometric equation involving the cosine function

Find all possible exact solutions for the equation cos θ = 1 2 .

From the unit circle    , we know that

cos θ = 1 2 θ = π 3 , 5 π 3

These are the solutions in the interval [ 0 , 2 π ] . All possible solutions are given by

θ = π 3 ± 2 k π   and   θ = 5 π 3 ± 2 k π

where k is an integer.

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Questions & Answers

The sequence is {1,-1,1-1.....} has
amit Reply
circular region of radious
Kainat Reply
how can we solve this problem
Joel Reply
Sin(A+B) = sinBcosA+cosBsinA
Eseka Reply
Prove it
Eseka
Please prove it
Eseka
hi
Joel
June needs 45 gallons of punch. 2 different coolers. Bigger cooler is 5 times as large as smaller cooler. How many gallons in each cooler?
Arleathia Reply
7.5 and 37.5
Nando
find the sum of 28th term of the AP 3+10+17+---------
Prince Reply
I think you should say "28 terms" instead of "28th term"
Vedant
the 28th term is 175
Nando
192
Kenneth
if sequence sn is a such that sn>0 for all n and lim sn=0than prove that lim (s1 s2............ sn) ke hole power n =n
SANDESH Reply
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Gift Reply
if A and B are subspaces of V prove that (A+B)/B=A/(A-B)
Pream Reply
write down the value of each of the following in surd form a)cos(-65°) b)sin(-180°)c)tan(225°)d)tan(135°)
Oroke Reply
Prove that (sinA/1-cosA - 1-cosA/sinA) (cosA/1-sinA - 1-sinA/cosA) = 4
kiruba Reply
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Morosi Reply
In a triangle ABC prove that. (b+c)cosA+(c+a)cosB+(a+b)cisC=a+b+c.
Shivam Reply
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Aaron Reply
the polar co-ordinate of the point (-1, -1)
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Source:  OpenStax, Algebra and trigonometry. OpenStax CNX. Nov 14, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11758/1.6
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