What if you were told that the longest escalator in North America is at the Wheaton Metro Station in Maryland and is 230 feet long and is 115 ft high? What is the angle of elevation, , of this escalator? After completing this Concept, you'll be able use inverse trigonometry to answer this question.
The word inverse is probably familiar to you. In mathematics, once you learn how to do an operation, you also learn how to “undo” it. For example, you may remember that addition and subtraction are considered inverse operations. Multiplication and division are also inverse operations. In algebra you used inverse operations to solve equations and inequalities. When we apply the word inverse to the trigonometric ratios, we can find the acute angle measures within a right triangle. Normally, if you are given an angle and a side of a right triangle, you can find the other two sides, using sine, cosine or tangent. With the inverse trig ratios, you can find the angle measure, given two sides.
Inverse Tangent: If you know the opposite side and adjacent side of an angle in a right triangle, you can use inverse tangent to find the measure of the angle. Inverse tangent is also called arctangent and is labeled or arctan . The “-1” indicates inverse.
Inverse Sine: If you know the opposite side of an angle and the hypotenuse in a right triangle, you can use inverse sine to find the measure of the angle. Inverse sine is also called arcsine and is labeled or arcsin .
Inverse Cosine: If you know the adjacent side of an angle and the hypotenuse in a right triangle, you can use inverse cosine to find the measure of the angle. Inverse cosine is also called arccosine and is labeled or arccos .
Using the triangle below, the inverse trigonometric ratios look like this:
In order to actually find the measure of the angles, you will need you use your calculator. On most scientific and graphing calculators, the buttons look like , and . Typically, you might have to hit a shift or button to access these functions. For example, on the TI-83 and 84, is . Again, make sure the mode is in degrees.
Now that we know how to use inverse trigonometric ratios to find the measure of the acute angles in a right triangle, we can solve right triangles. To solve a right triangle, you would need to find all sides and angles in a right triangle, using any method. When solving a right triangle, you could use sine, cosine or tangent, inverse sine, inverse cosine, or inverse tangent, or the Pythagorean Theorem. Remember when solving right triangles to only use the values that you are given.
Use the sides of the triangle and your calculator to find the value of . Round your answer to the nearest tenth of a degree.
In reference to , we are given the opposite leg and the adjacent leg. This means we should use the tangent ratio.
, therefore . Use your calculator.
If you are using a TI-83 or 84, the keystrokes would be: [ENTER] and the screen looks like:
is an acute angle in a right triangle. Use your calculator to find to the nearest tenth of a degree.
Solve the right triangle.
To solve this right triangle, we need to find and . Use and to give the most accurate answers.
: Use the Pythagorean Theorem.
: Use the inverse sine ratio.
: Use the inverse cosine ratio.
Watch this video for help with the Examples above.
Concept Problem Revisited
To find the escalator’s angle of elevation, we need to use the inverse sine ratio.
1. Solve the right triangle.
2. Solve the right triangle.
1. To solve this right triangle, we need to find and .
: Use sine ratio.
: Use tangent ratio.
: Use Triangle Sum Theorem
2. Even though, there are no angle measures given, we know that the two acute angles are congruent, making them both . Therefore, this is a 45-45-90 triangle. You can use the trigonometric ratios or the special right triangle ratios.
45-45-90 Triangle Ratios
Use your calculator to find to the nearest tenth of a degree.
Let be an acute angle in a right triangle. Find to the nearest tenth of a degree.
Solve the following right triangles. Find all missing sides and angles.
- Writing Explain when to use a trigonometric ratio to find a side length of a right triangle and when to use the Pythagorean Theorem.