# 5.2: Determination of Unknown Angles Using Law of Cosines

**At Grade**Created by: CK-12

You and a group of your friends are out in the country playing paintball. You have a playing field that is a triangle with sides of 50 meters, 50 meters, and 80 meters. You're trying to figure out what the angle is between the side that has a length of 50 meters and the other side that has a length of 50 meters. Is there a way to do this?

By the end of this Concept, you'll be able to calculate the unknown angle of a triangle using information about the sides.

### Watch This

James Sousa Example: Determine the Measure of an Angle of a Triangle Given the Length of Three Sides

### Guidance

The Law of Cosines is a natural extension of the Pythagorean Theorem that allows us to perform calculations to find the sides of triangles that are oblique.

Remember that the Law of Cosines is a generalization of the Pythagorean Theorem, where the angle \begin{align*}C\end{align*}

\begin{align*}c^2 = a^2 + b^2 - 2(a)(b)\cos C\end{align*}

You'll notice that if this were a right triangle, \begin{align*}\cos C = \cos 90^\circ = 0\end{align*}

Another situation where we can apply the Law of Cosines is when we know all three sides in a triangle (SSS) and we need to find one of the angles. The Law of Cosines allows us to find any of the three angles in the triangle. First, we will look at how to apply the Law of Cosines in this case, and then we will look at the real-world application given in the Concept Problem above.

#### Example A

An architect is designing a kitchen for a client. When designing a kitchen, the architect must pay special attention to the placement of the stove, sink, and refrigerator. In order for a kitchen to be utilized effectively, these three amenities must form a triangle with each other. This is known as the “work triangle.” By design, the three parts of the work triangle must be *no less than 3 feet apart and no more than 7 feet apart*. Based on the dimensions of the current kitchen, the architect has determined that the sink will be 3.6 feet away from the stove and 5.7 feet away from the refrigerator. The sink forms a \begin{align*}103^\circ\end{align*}

**Solution:** In order to find how the angle is affected, we will again need to use the Law of Cosines, but because we do not know the measures of any of the angles, we solve for \begin{align*}Y\end{align*}

\begin{align*}6.8^2 & = 4.2^2 + 5.7^2 - 2(4.2)(5.7) \cos Y && \text{Law of Cosines} \\ 46.24 & = 17.64 + 32.49 - 2(4.2)(5.7) \cos Y && \text{Simplify squares} \\ 46.24 & = 17.64 + 32.49 - 47.88 \cos Y && \text{Multiply} \\ 46.24 & = 50.13 - 47.88 \cos Y && \text{Add} \\ - 3.89 & = -47.88 \cos Y && \text{Subtract} \\ 0.0812447786 & = \cos Y && \text{Divide} \\ 85.3^\circ & \approx Y && \cos^{-1} \ (0.081244786)\end{align*}

The new angle would be \begin{align*}85.3^\circ\end{align*}

#### Example B

In oblique \begin{align*}\triangle{MNO}, m = 45, n = 28\end{align*}

**Solution:** Since we know all three sides of the triangle, we can use the Law of Cosines to find \begin{align*}\angle{M}\end{align*}

\begin{align*}45^2 & = 28^2 + 49^2 - 2(28)(49) \cos M && \text{Law of Cosines} \\ 2025 & = 784 + 2401 - 2(28)(49) \cos M && \text{Simplify squares} \\ 2025 & = 784 + 2401 - 2744 \cos M && \text{Multiply} \\ 2025 & = 3185 - 2744 \cos M && \text{Add} \\ -1160 & = -2744 \cos M && \text{Subtract}\ 3185 \\ 0.422740525 & = \cos M && \text{Divide by}\ -2744 \\ 65^\circ & \approx M && \cos^{-1} \ (0.422740525) \end{align*}

It is important to note that we could use the Law of Cosines to find \begin{align*}\angle{N}\end{align*}

#### Example C

Sam is building a retaining wall for a garden that he plans on putting in the back corner of his yard. Due to the placement of some trees, the dimensions of his wall need to be as follows: side \begin{align*}1 = 12ft\end{align*}

**Solution:** Since we know the measures of all three sides of the retaining wall, we can use the Law of Cosines to find the measures of the angles formed by adjacent walls. We will refer to the angle formed by side 1 and side 2 as \begin{align*}\angle{A}\end{align*}

\begin{align*}22^2 & = 12^2 + 18^2 - 2(12)(18) \cos A && \text{Law of Cosines} \\ 484 & = 144 + 324 - 2(12)(18) \cos A && \text{Simplify squares} \\ 484 & = 144 + 324 - 432 \cos A && \text{Multiply} \\ 484 & = 468 - 432 \cos A && \text{Add} \\ 16 & = -432 \cos A && \text{Subtract}\ 468 \\ -0.037037037 & \approx \cos A && \text{Divide by}\ -432 \\ 92.1^\circ & \approx A && \cos^{-1} \ (-0.037037037) \end{align*}

Next we will find the measure of \begin{align*}\angle{B}\end{align*} also by using the Law of Cosines.

\begin{align*}18^2 & = 12^2 + 22^2 - 2(12)(22) \cos B && \text{Law of Cosines} \\ 324 & = 144 + 484 - 2(12)(22) \cos B && \text{Simplify squares} \\ 324 & = 144 + 484 - 528 \cos B && \text{Multiply} \\ 324 & = 628 - 528 \cos B && \text{Add} \\ -304 & = -528 \cos B && \text{Subtract}\ 628 \\ 0.575757576 & = \cos B && \text{Divide by}\ -528 \\ 54.8^\circ & \approx B && \cos^{-1} \ (0.575757576) \end{align*}

Now that we know two of the angles, we can find the third angle using the Triangle Sum Theorem, \begin{align*}\angle{C} = 180 - (92.1 + 54.8) = 33.1^\circ\end{align*}.

### Guided Practice

1. Find the largest angle in the triangle below, where \begin{align*}t = 6, r = 7, i = 11\end{align*}

2. Find the smallest angle in the triangle below, where \begin{align*}q = 17, d = 12.8, r = 18.6, \angle{Q} = 62.4^\circ\end{align*}

3. Find the second largest angle in the triangle below, where \begin{align*}c = 9, d = 11, m = 13\end{align*}

**Solutions:**

1. \begin{align*}11^2 = 6^2 + 7^2 - 2 \cdot 6 \cdot 7 \cdot \cos I, \angle{I} \approx 115.4^\circ\end{align*}

2. \begin{align*}12.8^2 = 17^2 + 18.6^2 - 2 \cdot 17 \cdot 18.6 \cdot \cos D, \angle{D} \approx 41.8^\circ\end{align*}

3. \begin{align*}11^2 = 9^2 + 13^3 - 2 \cdot 9 \cdot 13 \cdot \cos D, \angle{D} \approx 56.5^\circ\end{align*}

### Concept Problem Solution

You can use the Law of Cosines to solve this problem:

\begin{align*} c^2 = a^2 + b^2 + 2ab\cos \theta\\ 80^2 = 50^2 + 50^2 + (2)(50)(50)\cos \theta\\ 80^2 - 50^2 - 50^2 = (2)(50)(50)\cos \theta\\ 6400 - 2500 - 2500 = (2)(50)(50)\cos \theta\\ 1400 = (2)(50)(50)\cos \theta\\ \cos \theta = \frac{1400}{5000}\\ \theta = \cos^{-1} (.28)\\ \theta = 73.74^\circ\\ \end{align*}

The angle in your paintball course is rather large, measuring \begin{align*}73.74^\circ\end{align*}

### Explore More

- If you know the lengths of all three sides of a triangle, how can you identify the smallest angle of the triangle? The largest angle?
- If you know the measures of two angles of a triangle, how can you find the measure of the third angle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 3-5.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 6-8.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 9-11.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 12-14.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 15-17.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

Use the triangle below to answer questions 18-20.

- What is the measure of the smallest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the largest angle of the triangle?
- What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?

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## Description

## Learning Objectives

Here you'll learn to find an unknown angle in a triangle where the lengths of all three sides are known using the Law of Cosines.

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## Date Created:

Sep 26, 2012## Last Modified:

Feb 26, 2015## Vocabulary

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