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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

Verbal

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

what is set?
Kelvin Reply
a colony of bacteria is growing exponentially doubling in size every 100 minutes. how much minutes will it take for the colony of bacteria to triple in size
Divya Reply
I got 300 minutes. is it right?
Patience
no. should be about 150 minutes.
Jason
It should be 158.5 minutes.
Mr
ok, thanks
Patience
100•3=300 300=50•2^x 6=2^x x=log_2(6) =2.5849625 so, 300=50•2^2.5849625 and, so, the # of bacteria will double every (100•2.5849625) = 258.49625 minutes
Thomas
what is the importance knowing the graph of circular functions?
Arabella Reply
can get some help basic precalculus
ismail Reply
What do you need help with?
Andrew
how to convert general to standard form with not perfect trinomial
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can get some help inverse function
ismail
Rectangle coordinate
Asma Reply
how to find for x
Jhon Reply
it depends on the equation
Robert
yeah, it does. why do we attempt to gain all of them one side or the other?
Melissa
whats a domain
mike Reply
The domain of a function is the set of all input on which the function is defined. For example all real numbers are the Domain of any Polynomial function.
Spiro
Spiro; thanks for putting it out there like that, 😁
Melissa
foci (–7,–17) and (–7,17), the absolute value of the differenceof the distances of any point from the foci is 24.
Churlene Reply
difference between calculus and pre calculus?
Asma Reply
give me an example of a problem so that I can practice answering
Jenefa Reply
x³+y³+z³=42
Robert
dont forget the cube in each variable ;)
Robert
of she solves that, well ... then she has a lot of computational force under her command ....
Walter
what is a function?
CJ Reply
I want to learn about the law of exponent
Quera Reply
explain this
Hinderson Reply
what is functions?
Angel Reply
A mathematical relation such that every input has only one out.
Spiro
yes..it is a relationo of orders pairs of sets one or more input that leads to a exactly one output.
Mubita
Is a rule that assigns to each element X in a set A exactly one element, called F(x), in a set B.
RichieRich

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Source:  OpenStax, Precalculus. OpenStax CNX. Jan 19, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11667/1.6
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