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1.3: Pythagorean Theorem to Classify Triangles

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While painting a wall in your home one day, you realize that the wall you are painting seems "tilted", as though it might fall over. You realize that if the wall is standing upright, the angle between the wall and the floor is ninety degrees. After a few careful measurements, you find that the distance from the bottom of the ladder to the wall is 3 feet, the top of the ladder is at a point 10 feet up on the wall, and the ladder is 12 feet long. Can you determine if the wall is still standing upright, or if it is starting to lean? When you've completed this Concept, you'll know for certain how to determine if the wall is standing upright.

Watch This

James Sousa: The Pythagorean Theorem and the Converse of the Pythagorean Theorem

Guidance

We can use the Pythagorean Theorem to help determine if a triangle is a right triangle, if it is acute, or if it is obtuse. To help you visualize this, think of an equilateral triangle with sides of length 5 . We know that this is an acute triangle. If you plug in 5 for each number in the Pythagorean Theorem we get 5^2 + 5^2 = 5^2 and 50 > 25 . Therefore, if a^2 + b^2 > c^2 , then lengths a, \ b , and c make up an acute triangle. Conversely, if a^2 + b^2 < c^2 , then lengths a, \ b , and c make up the sides of an obtuse triangle. It is important to note that the length c is always the longest.

Example A

Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

5, 6, 7

Solution: Plug in each set of lengths into the Pythagorean Theorem.

a. 5^2 + 6^2 & \ ? \ 7^2\\25 + 36 & \ ? \ 49\\61 & > 49

Because 61>49 , this is an acute triangle.

Example B

Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

5, 10, 14

Solution: Plug in each set of lengths into the Pythagorean Theorem.

b. 5^2 + 10^2 & \ ? \ 14^2\\25+ 100 & \ ? \ 196\\125 & < 196

Because 125<196 , this is an obtuse triangle.

Example C

Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

12, 35, 37

Solution: Plug in each set of lengths into the Pythagorean Theorem.

c. 12^2 + 35^2 & \ ? \ 37^2\\144 + 1225 & \ ? \ 1369\\1369 & = 1369

Because the two sides are equal, this is a right triangle.

NOTE: All of the lengths in the above examples represent the lengths of the sides of a triangle. Recall the Triangle Inequality Theorem from geometry which states: The length of a side in a triangle is less than the sum of the other two sides. For example, 4, 7 and 13 cannot be the sides of a triangle because 4+7 is not greater than 13.

Vocabulary

Acute Triangle: An acute triangle is a triangle where the angle opposite the hypotenuse is less than ninety degrees.

Right Triangle: A right triangle is a triangle where the angle opposite the hypotenuse is equal to ninety degrees.

Obtuse Triangle: An obtuse triangle is a triangle where the angle opposite the hypotenuse is greater than ninety degrees.

Guided Practice

1. Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

8, 15, 20

2. Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

15, 22, 25

Answers:

1. Plug in each set of lengths into the Pythagorean Theorem.

8^2 + 15^2 & \ ? \ 20^2\\64 + 225 & \ ? \ 400\\289 & < 400

Because 289<400 , this is an obtuse triangle.

2. Plug in each set of lengths into the Pythagorean Theorem.

15^2 + 22^2 & \ ? \ 25^2\\225 + 484 & \ ? \ 625\\709 & > 625

Because 709>625 , this is an acute triangle.

Concept Problem Solution

The ladder is making a triangle with the floor as one side, the wall as another, and the ladder itself serves as the hypotenuse. To see if the wall is leaning, you can determine the type of triangle that is made with these lengths (right, acute, or obtuse). If the triangle is a right triangle, then the wall is standing upright. Otherwise, it is leaning.

Plugging the lengths of the sides into the Pythagorean Theorem:

3^2 + 10^2 & \ ? \ 12^2\\9 + 100 & \ ? \ 144\\109 & < 144

Yes, you were right. Because 109 < 144, this is an obtuse triangle. The wall is leaning with an angle greater than ninety degrees.

Practice

Determine if each of the following lengths make a right triangle.

  1. 9, 40, 41.
  2. 12, 24, 26.
  3. 5, 10, 14.
  4. 3, 3\sqrt{3} , 6.

Determine if the following lengths make an acute, right or obtuse triangle.

  1. 10, 15, 18.
  2. 4, 20, 21.
  3. 15, 16, 17.
  4. 15, 15, 15\sqrt{2} .
  5. 12, 17, 19.
  6. 3, 4, 5.
  7. 12, 12\sqrt{3} , 24.
  8. 2, 4, 5.
  9. 3, 5, 7.
  10. Explain why if a^2 + b^2 < c^2 then the triangle is obtuse.
  11. Explain why if a^2 + b^2 > c^2 then the triangle is acute.

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Date Created:

Sep 26, 2012

Last Modified:

Oct 28, 2014
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