<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=iA1Pi1a8Dy00ym" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="" />
Dismiss
Skip Navigation
Our Terms of Use (click here to view) and Privacy Policy (click here to view) have changed. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Rectangular to Polar Form for Equations

Convert equations by substituting x and y with expressions of distance and angles.

Atoms Practice
Estimated10 minsto complete
%
Progress
Practice Rectangular to Polar Form for Equations
Practice
Progress
Estimated10 minsto complete
%
Practice Now
Rectangular to Polar Form for Equations

You are working diligently in your math class when your teacher gives you an equation to graph:

\begin{align*}(x + 1)^2 - (y + 2)^2 = 7\end{align*}

As you start to consider how to rearrange this equation, you are told that the goal of the class is to convert the equation to polar form instead of rectangular form.

Can you find a way to do this?

Rectangular Equations to Polar Form

Interestingly, a rectangular coordinate system isn't the only way to plot values. A polar system can be useful. However, it will often be the case that there are one or more equations that need to be converted from rectangular to polar form. To write a rectangular equation in polar form, the conversion equations of \begin{align*}x = r \cos \theta\end{align*} and \begin{align*}y = r \sin \theta\end{align*} are used.

 

 

 

 

 

If the graph of the polar equation is the same as the graph of the rectangular equation, then the conversion has been determined correctly.

\begin{align*}(x-2)^2+y^2=4\end{align*}

The rectangular equation \begin{align*}(x - 2)^2 + y^2 = 4\end{align*} represents a circle with center (2, 0) and a radius of 2 units. The polar equation \begin{align*}r = 4 \cos \theta\end{align*} is a circle with center (2, 0) and a radius of 2 units.

Write the rectangular equation to polar form

Write the rectangular equation \begin{align*}x^2 + y^2 = 2x\end{align*} in polar form.

Remember \begin{align*}r = \sqrt{x^2 + y^2}, r^2 = x^2 + y^2\end{align*} and \begin{align*}x = r \cos \theta\end{align*}.

\begin{align*}x^2 + y^2 &= 2x\\ r^2 &= 2(r \cos \theta) && Pythagorean \ Theorem \ and \ x = r \cos \theta\\ r^2 &= 2r \cos \theta\\ r &= 2 \cos \theta && Divide \ each \ side \ by \ r\end{align*}

Write the rectangular equation in polar form

Write \begin{align*}(x - 2)^2 + y^2 = 4\end{align*} in polar form.

Remember \begin{align*}x = r \cos \theta\end{align*} and \begin{align*}y = r \sin \theta\end{align*}.

\begin{align*}&(x - 2)^2 + y^2 = 4\\ &(r \cos \theta - 2)^2 + (r \sin \theta)^2 = 4 && x = r \cos \theta \ and \ y = r \sin \theta\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta - 4r \cos \theta + 4 + r^2 \sin^2 \theta = 4 && expand \ the \ terms\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta - 4r \cos \theta + r^2 \sin^2 \theta = 0 && subtract \ 4 \ from \ each \ side\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta + r^2 \sin^2 \theta = 4r \cos \theta && isolate \ the \ squared \ terms\\ & r^2 (\cos^2 \theta + \sin^2 \theta) = 4r \cos \theta && factor \ r^2 - a \ common \ factor\\ & r^2 = 4r \cos \theta && Pythagorean \ Identity\\ & r = 4 \cos \theta && Divide \ each \ side \ by \ r\end{align*}

Write the rectangular equation in polar form

Write the rectangular equation \begin{align*}(x+4)^2 + (y-1)^2 = 17\end{align*} in polar form.

\begin{align*}&(x+4)^2 + (y-1)^2 = 17\\ &(r \cos \theta + 4)^2 + (r \sin \theta - 1)^2 = 17 && x = r \cos \theta \ and \ y = r \sin \theta\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta + 8r \cos \theta + 16 + r^2 \sin^2 \theta - 2r \sin \theta + 1 = 17 && expand \ the \ terms\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta + 8r \cos \theta - 2r \sin \theta + r^2 \sin^2 \theta = 0 && subtract \ 17 \ from \ each \ side\\ & r^2 \cos^2 \theta + r^2 \sin^2 \theta = -8r \cos \theta + 2r \sin \theta && isolate \ the \ squared \ terms\\ & r^2 (\cos^2 \theta + \sin^2 \theta) = -2r (4\cos \theta - \sin \theta) && factor \ r^2 - a \ common \ factor\\ & r^2 = -2r (4\cos \theta - \sin \theta) && Pythagorean \ Identity\\ & r = -2(4\cos \theta - \sin \theta) && Divide \ each \ side \ by \ r\end{align*}

Examples

Example 1

Earlier, you were asked to convert an equation to polar form. 

The original equation to convert is:

\begin{align*}(x + 1)^2 - (y + 2)^2 = 7\end{align*}

You can substitute \begin{align*}x = r\cos \theta\end{align*} and \begin{align*}y = r\sin \theta\end{align*} into the equation, and then simplify:

\begin{align*} (r\cos \theta +1)^2 - (r\sin \theta + 2)^2 = 7\\ (r^2\cos^2 \theta + 2r\cos \theta +1) - (r^2\sin^2 \theta + 4r\sin \theta + 4) = 7\\ r^2(\cos^2 \theta - \sin^2 \theta) + 2r(\cos \theta - 2\sin \theta) - 3 = 7\\ r^2(\cos^2 \theta - \sin^2 \theta) + 2r(\cos \theta - 2\sin \theta) = 10 \end{align*}

Example 2

Write the rectangular equation \begin{align*}(x - 4)^2 + (y - 3)^2 = 25\end{align*} in polar form.

\begin{align*}(x - 4)^2 + (y - 3)^2 & = 25 \\ x^2 - 8x + 16 + y^2 - 6y + 9 & = 25 \\ x^2 - 8x + y^2 - 6y + 25 & = 25 \\ x^2 - 8x + y^2 - 6y & = 0 \\ x^2 + y^2 - 8x - 6y & = 0 \\ r^2 - 8(r \cos \theta) - 6(r \sin \theta) & = 0 \\ r^2 - 8r \cos \theta - 6r \sin \theta & = 0 \\ r(r - 8 \cos \theta - 6 \sin \theta) & = 0 \\ r = 0\ \text{or}\ r - 8 \cos \theta - 6 \sin \theta & = 0 \\ r = 0\ \text{or}\ r & = 8 \cos \theta + 6 \sin \theta\end{align*}

From graphing \begin{align*}r-8\cos \theta -6\sin \theta =0\end{align*}, we see that the additional solutions are 0 and 8.

Example 3

Write the rectangular equation \begin{align*}3x - 2y = 1\end{align*} in polar form.

\begin{align*}3x - 2y & = 1 \\ 3r \cos \theta - 2r \sin \theta & = 1 \\ r (3 \cos \theta - 2 \sin \theta) & = 1 \\ r & = \frac{1}{3 \cos \theta - 2 \sin \theta}\end{align*}

Example 4

Write the rectangular equation \begin{align*}x^2 + y^2 - 4x + 2y = 0\end{align*} in polar form.

\begin{align*}x^2 + y^2 - 4x + 2y & = 0 \\ r^2 \cos^2 \theta + r^2 \sin^2 \theta - 4 r \cos \theta + 2 r \sin \theta & = 0 \\ r^2 (\sin^2 \theta + \cos^2 \theta) - 4 r \cos \theta + 2 r \sin \theta & = 0 \\ r (r - 4 \cos \theta + 2 \sin \theta) & = 0 \\ r = 0\ \text{or}\ r - 4 \cos \theta + 2 \sin \theta & = 0 \\ r = 0\ \text{or}\ r & = 4 \cos \theta - 2 \sin \theta\end{align*}

Review

Write each rectangular equation in polar form.

  1. \begin{align*}x=3\end{align*}
  2. \begin{align*}y=4\end{align*}
  3. \begin{align*}x^2+y^2=4\end{align*}
  4. \begin{align*}x^2+y^2=9\end{align*}
  5. \begin{align*}(x-1)^2+y^2=1\end{align*}
  6. \begin{align*}(x-2)^2+(y-3)^2=13\end{align*}
  7. \begin{align*}(x-1)^2+(y-3)^2=10\end{align*}
  8. \begin{align*}(x+2)^2+(y+2)^2=8\end{align*}
  9. \begin{align*}(x+5)^2+(y-1)^2=26\end{align*}
  10. \begin{align*}x^2+(y-6)^2=36\end{align*}
  11. \begin{align*}x^2+(y+2)^2=4\end{align*}
  12. \begin{align*}2x+5y=11\end{align*}
  13. \begin{align*}4x-7y=10\end{align*}
  14. \begin{align*}x+5y=8\end{align*}
  15. \begin{align*}3x-4y=15\end{align*}

Review (Answers)

To see the Review answers, open this PDF file and look for section 6.6. 

My Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

Color Highlighted Text Notes
Please to create your own Highlights / notes
Show More

Image Attributions

Explore More

Sign in to explore more, including practice questions and solutions for Rectangular to Polar Form for Equations.
Please wait...
Please wait...