Triangles

Mathematicians often use the known properties of different shapes to help them solve problems. In this article, we will explore the classic and common three-sided shape, the triangle. You may be surprised to see an article dedicated entirely to triangles, but this is a broad topic with many interesting details to uncover! Let's start by defining what we even mean by a triangle.

Triangles Triangles

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Contents
Table of contents

    Meaning of triangles

    The term "triangle" itself is a combination of two words: tri (meaning three) and angle (a space formed by the meeting of two lines). We can use this understanding to approach our definition of a triangle:

    Triangles are shapes with three sides. Because they have three sides, they also have three angles.

    Triangles used to be referred to as trigons. However, this term has mostly been replaced with the more common term, triangle.

    Now, let's illustrate what we mean by a triangle. Every triangle has three sides and three edges or corners which are known as vertices.

    The figure below shows a triangle, ABC. We can write ABC to denote the triangle ABC. Now, ABC has three vertices A, B, and C. It also has three sides: AB, BC, and CA.

    Triangles Example of a triangle StudySmarter

    Example of a triangle - StudySmarter Originals

    Angles in triangles

    As illustrated in the above image, triangles have three angles. If we were to cut each of these angles out of the triangle and line them up next to each other, we could notice that all three angles would form a straight line. Recall that angles on a straight line sum to 180 degrees. Therefore, we can say that angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees.

    Therefore, if the three angles of the triangle are α, β and γ, we can say that:

    α+β+γ=180°

    This is an important fact, as we can use it to help determine missing angles in a triangle. We will do this in the following example:

    Suppose we have a triangle with angles 30° and 50°. Work out the third angle.

    Solution:

    Let's denote the missing angle by α. Since the three angles in a triangle add up to 180°, we can say:

    30°+50°+α=180°

    Therefore,

    80°+α=180°.

    Subtracting 110° from both sides, we obtain:

    α=180°-80°=100°

    Therefore, the missing angle is 100°.

    Area of triangles

    Now, we will talk about finding the area of a triangle.

    The area of a shape is the space that it takes up. It is measured in square units (i.e., m2 or ft2).

    There is a formula that allows us to work out the area of any given triangle. It is:

    Area of a Triangle = 12 × base × height

    So, all we need to know is the base and the height to work out the triangle's area. When we refer to the height, we are talking about the perpendicular height as measured from the base. So, the height and base should be at right angles to each other, as shown in the diagram below.

    area of a triangle- showing the perpendicular height of a triangle Triangle ACB with perpendicular height DC shown - StudySmarter Originals

    In the triangle ACB, we have the base of AB and the height of CD. We can also see that AB is perpendicular to CD (ABCD). So, if we measured their lengths, we could work out the area of this triangle using the formula.

    Recall that the area is measured in square units. So, if the height and the base are measured in centimeters (cm), the area would be measured in centimeters squared (cm2).

    Suppose the base of a triangle is 10 cm and the height is 12 cm. Work out the area of the triangle.

    Solution:

    Using the fact that:

    Area of a Triangle = 12 × base × height

    We can say that:

    Area of a Triangle = 12 × 10 cm× 12 cm=60 cm2

    Therefore, the area of this triangle is 60 cm2 .

    The perimeter of triangles

    In addition to the area of triangles, we are often asked to work out the perimeter as well. The perimeter is the sum of all of the lengths of the triangle's sides. So, to obtain the perimeter, we need to add up these side lengths.

    The formula for a triangle's perimeter can be written as:

    P=a+b+c

    Where a, b, and c are the lengths of each of the three sides of the triangle. Let's take a look at how to use this formula in an example problem.

    If we have a triangle with side lengths 3 cm, 4 cm, and 5 cm, what would the perimeter be?

    Solution:

    Using the formula for the perimeter, we have that:

    P=3+4+5=12 cm

    So, the perimeter of this triangle would be 12 cm.

    Types of triangles

    There are different types of triangles that are characterized by specific properties. We will discuss the properties of four types in more detail, including:

    • The equilateral triangle
    • The isosceles triangle
    • The scalene triangle
    • The right-angled triangle

    Equilateral triangles

    Equilateral triangles consist of three equal sides and three equal angles, which helps to explain the name of equilateral. Recall from earlier that the three angles in a triangle sum up to 180°. Since the equilateral triangle has three equal angles, we can say that each angle is 60°, as calculated by: 180÷3=60°. If we have a triangle where we know each angle is equal to 60°, we can say that it is an equilateral triangle.

    The figure below shows an example of an equilateral triangle. Note that the ticks on each side of this triangle are there to show that each of the sides is equal in length.

    Triangles image of equilateral triangle ABC StudySmarterEquilateral triangle ABC - StudySmarter Originals

    Isosceles triangles

    Isosceles is a fun word to say, but what does it mean? Isosceles triangles are triangles with two equal sides and hence two equal angles. So, a useful characteristic of isosceles triangles is that we only need to know the size of one of the angles to be able to work out the other two! We will look at an example of this later on.

    Below is an example of an isosceles triangle. Note that the ticks on two of the sides show that these two sides are equal in length.

    Triangles image of isosceles triangle DEF StudySmarterExample of an isosceles triangle - StudySmarter Originals

    Scalene triangles

    So, we know that an equilateral triangle has three equal sides, and an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. Can you guess what a scalene triangle is? Scalene triangles have no equal sides and no equal angles.

    Below is an example of a scalene triangle. This time there are no ticks on any of the sides because none of the sides are the same!

    Triangles image of scalene triangle GHI StudySmarterExample of a scalene triangle - StudySmarter Originals

    Right-angled triangles

    We also have a special type of triangle, which is instead classified by the properties of its angles. If one of the triangle's angles is a right angle, meaning it is90°, the triangle is a right-angled triangle. This type of triangle is particularly useful in the study of Trigonometry. Below is an example of a right-angled triangle:

    Triangles example of right angled triangle StudySmarterExample of a right-angled triangle - StudySmarter Originals

    Now, if we have a right-angled triangle, by definition, the triangle is also either an isosceles or scalene triangle. Take a look at the below example to see why:

    Suppose the three angles of a triangle are 90°, 30°, and 60°. In this case, since one of the angles is a right angle, it is a right-angled triangle. However, since all three of the angles are different, it is also a scalene triangle.

    Now, suppose we have another right-angled triangle with angles of 90°, 45°, and 45°. In this case, it is a right-angled triangle and also an isosceles triangle because two of the angles are the same.

    It's not possible for a triangle to be both equilateral and right-angled, however. To fit the definition of an equilateral triangle, all of the angles would need to be the same, and to fit the definition of a right-angled triangle, one of the angles would need to be 90°. This means that the triangle would need to have three angles of90°, like so:

    90°+90°+90°=270°180

    However, the angles of a triangle have to add up to 180°! Thus, right-angled triangles can also be classified as either isosceles or scalene.

    Pythagorean theorem

    An important and well-known theorem about right-angled triangles is the Pythagorean theorem, which relates to the sides of right-angled triangles. This theorem is very useful because it enables us to find the length of a missing side of a right-angled triangle if we already know the other two sides.

    Triangles Pythagorean theorem StudySmarterRight-angled triangle and Pythagorean theorem - StudySmarter Originals

    For the right-angled triangle above, with sides labelled asa, b, and c, the theorem gives the following formula:

    a2+b2=c2

    The side labelled asc is known as the hypotenuse of the triangle. Let's now take a look at a quick example to see how the Pythagorean theorem works.

    Suppose we have the below triangle. Work out the size of the size labelled x:

    types of triangles- right angled triangle with missing side Right-angled triangle with missing side - StudySmarter Originals

    Solution:

    For this right-angled triangle, we can see that x is the hypotenuse, so we label it as c to fit our formula. So, let's now label the other sides as a=3 and b=4.

    Applying the Pythagorean theorem, we can say that:

    a2+b2=c2

    Now, substituting in our values of a,b, and c, we get:

    32+42=x2

    9+16=x2

    25=x2

    Taking the square root of both sides,

    x=25=5

    Therefore, the length of the triangle's hypotenuse is x=5 cm.

    When we have integer values for all three sides of a right angle, the side lengths are together known as a Pythagorean Triple.

    Triangle examples

    We will now go through some example problems concerning triangles to test your understanding!

    A triangle has two angles 52° and 38°. Show that this triangle is right-angled.

    Solution:

    Let's first define the missing angle to be x°. Since angles in a triangle sum to 180°, we have:

    52°+38°+x°=180°

    Therefore,

    90°+x°=180°

    Subtracting 90° from both sides, we obtain:

    x=180°-90°=90°.

    Thus, the missing angle is 90°, which is a right angle. From this, we know that it is a right-angled triangle.

    In the below isosceles triangle MNO, we know that MN=OM and MNO=42°. Work out the size of the other two angles.

    Triangles triangle example on finding missing angles StudySmarterTriangle example finding missing angle - StudySmarter Originals

    Solution:

    Since MN=OM, we know thatMON=42°. Now, since angles in a triangle sum to 180°, we can say:

    42°+42°+NMO=180°.

    Therefore,

    84°+NMO =180°

    Subtracting 84° from both sides, we obtain:

    NMO=180°-84°=96°

    So, MON=42° and NMO=96°

    In the below triangle, ADC is equilateral and CAB=32°. Work out the size of ACB and ABC.

    Triangles triangle example on finding missing angles StudySmarterTriangle example finding missing angles - StudySmarter Originals

    Solution:

    Firstly, since ADC is equilateral, we can say that each of the angles within it are 60°. So, DCA=60°.

    Since angles on a straight line sum to 180°, we have:

    id="2869227" role="math" ACB=180°-DCA=120°ACB=180°-60°=120°

    With this information, we can work out ABC:

    id="2869236" role="math" ACB+CAB+ABC=180°120°+32°+ABC=180°

    152°+ABC =180°

    Subtracting 152° from both sides, we get:

    ABC=180°-152°=28°.

    So ACB=120° and ABC=28°.

    A given isosceles triangle has an angle of 30°. Work out two possibilities for the sizes of its other two angles.

    Solution:

    Firstly, since it is isosceles, two of the angles must be the same. If one of the angles is 30°, then one of the other angles could be 30°as well to meet this property. In this case, that would make the third and last angle 120° by the following calculation:

    180°-30°-30°=120°

    So, our isosceles triangle could have angles: 30°, 30°, 120°.

    Another possible scenario is that only one of the angles is 30°. In this case, the other two angles would need to be the same. Since angles in a triangle sum to 180°, the other two angles would need to sum to:

    180°-30°=150°.

    Since the two remaining angles are both the same, they would each be:

    150°÷2=75°.

    Therefore, our isosceles triangle could also have angles: 30°, 75°, 75°.

    So, the two possibilities are: 30°, 30°, 120° or 30°, 75°, 75°.

    Triangles - Key takeaways

    • Triangles are shapes with three sides and three angles.
    • Every triangle has three sides and three edges or corners which are known as vertices.
    • The three angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees.
    • We have a formula for the area of a triangle as follows: Area of a Triangle = 12 × base × height
    • The four main types of triangles are: equilateral, isosceles, scalene, and right-angled.
    • Equilateral triangles consist of three equal sides and three equal angles.
    • Isosceles triangles are triangles with two equal sides and two equal angles.
    • Scalene triangles have no equal sides and no equal angles.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Triangles

    What is a triangle?

    A triangle is a shape with three sides. 

    How to find the area of a triangle?

    The area of any triangle can be computed by multiplying 1/2 by the base, multiplied by height. 

    How many degrees in a triangle?

    The internal angles in a triangle sum to 180 degrees.

    How to find the height of a triangle?

    To find the height of a triangle, determine the perpendicular distance from the base to the top vertex of the triangle.

    How to find the perimeter of a triangle?

    To find the perimeter of a triangle, add up the lengths of all of the sides of the triangle. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the below is NOT a congruent transformation?

    A sequence of congruent transformations will not produce congruent objects

    Congruence transformations arre rigid transformations

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