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Altitudes

Height of a triangle or the line segment from a vertex and perpendicular to the opposite side.

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Altitudes

What if you were given one or more of a triangle's angle measures? How would you determine where the triangle's altitude would be found? After completing this Concept, you'll be able to answer this type of question.

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CK-12 Altitudes

James Sousa: Altitudes of a Triangle

Guidance

In a triangle, a line segment from a vertex and perpendicular to the opposite side is called an altitude. It is also called the height of a triangle. The red lines below are all altitudes.

When a triangle is a right triangle, the altitude, or height, is the leg. If the triangle is obtuse, then the altitude will be outside of the triangle. If the triangle is acute, then the altitude will be inside the triangle.

Example A

Which line segment is the altitude of ?

In a right triangle, the altitude, or the height, is the leg. If we rotate the triangle so that the right angle is in the lower left corner, we see that leg is the altitude.

Example B

A triangle has angles that measure and . Where will the altitude be found?

Because all of the angle measures are less than , the triangle is an acute triangle. The altitude of any acute triangle is inside the triangle.

Example C

A triangle has an angle that measures . Where will an altitude be found?

Because , the triangle is obtuse and it will be outside the triangle.

CK-12 Altitudes

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Guided Practice

1. True or false: The altitudes of an obtuse triangle are inside the triangle.

2. Draw the altitude for the triangle shown.

3. Draw the altitude for the triangle shown.

Answers

1. Every triangle has three altitudes. For an obtuse triangle, at least one of the altitudes will be outside of the triangle, as shown in the picture at the beginning of this concept.

2. The triangle is an acute triangle, so the altitude is inside the triangle as shown below so that it is perpendicular to the base.

3. The triangle is a right triangle, so the altitude is already drawn. The altitude is .

Explore More

Given the following triangles, tell whether the altitude is inside the triangle, outside the triangle, or at the leg of the triangle.

  1. is an equiangular triangle.
  2. is a triangle in which two the angles measure and .
  3. is an isosceles triangle in which two of the angles measure .
  4. is an isosceles triangle in which two angles measures .

Given the following triangles, which line segment is the altitude?

Answers for Explore More Problems

To view the Explore More answers, open this PDF file and look for section 5.5. 

Vocabulary

altitude

altitude

An altitude of a triangle is a line segment from a vertex and is perpendicular to the opposite side. It is also called the height of a triangle.

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