Law of Cosines

Law of Cosines

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BAM!!!, Mr. Tarrou. We just got done learning
Law of Sines and now we are going to learn another law that allows you to work oblique
triangles or non-right triangles. That is the Law of Cosine. Now we need both of these
laws because you can’t always do Law of Sines and you can’t always do Law of Cosine. To
be able to set up the law of sine, you need to have a matching pair of angle and side.
When you have that paring like you know angle A and side a you can set up the law of sine.
However, if you don’t have that then hopefully the law of cosine will allow you to finish
or solve that oblique triangle…find all the missing angles and sides and possibly
even area with a different formula. So we have the law of cosine. a squared equals b
squared plus c squared minus 2bc times the cosine of A. There is three formulas or three
forms of this equation but as you can see from the pattern, they are all pretty much
the same. They are exactly the same. The letters just move around. Whatever side you are setting
the equation equal to, that is what corresponding angle you are going to use in the other side
of the equation in the cosine function. Then everything else the something squared plus
something squared minus 2 times those same two somethings, that is just whatever is left.
So if you are using side b and angle B, then everywhere else in this equation you are talking
about sides of a and c. So there is three forms, but really you could just memorize
one of those formulas and you would be just fine. When do you use these? You use these
for non-right triangles, because if they were right triangles why not just go back to SOHCAHTOA!!!
You use these when given two sides and an included angle. That means that you are going
to know two sides and they are going to come together to form a given angle. Or, you are
just given all three sides of the triangle. Now these are both…were both used in Geometry
for proving that two triangles were either similar or congruent. These are congruency
theorems or similarity theorems and that means that when you use law of cosine, if it fits
the pattern that allows you to use the law of cosine, you are guaranteed that there is
only one possible triangle. It is not that sort um…not arbitrary but you know where
you are doing the sign and you have the possibility of having no answer, one answer, or two of
them. To find an angle…you also want to use the law of cosine to find an angle opposite
the largest side since it may be obtuse. Now when you do inverse cosine with your calculator
which can only work with functions, it is going to give you an answer between zero and
pi or zero and 180 degrees. So, if the angle happens to be obtuse like say 97 degrees you
are going to get the right answer. But if you attempted to use law of sine to find the
opposite the largest side and that largest angle happened to be obtuse, the law of sine
would not be able to give that to you. So if your largest angle was 97 degrees, which
is 7 degrees away from 90 or it has a reference angle of 83 degrees, it is going to give you
an answer of instead… I think I just said that wrong. Instead of giving you an answer
of 97 degrees, law of sine is going to give you answer of 83 degrees. This is because
inverse sine cannot give you answers beyond negative pi over 2 or negative 90 and positive
90. It cannot go beyond quadrant one in a positive direction. So again, if that angle
is 97 degrees and you try to do law of sine you would actually get 83 degrees from your
calculator which will be incorrect. When you want to find that largest angle it is always
suggested to use law of cosine to find that incase it is obtuse, you will get the correct
answer from your calculator. Here we have a couple of measurements and again we are
kind of just basically doing geometry here. We are just working with shapes which means
that as far as I am concerned we should always have a picture. So, I am not going to worry
about drawing this to scale. I just want a place where I can put my numbers down. So
triangle ABC. So angle C is 49 degrees. Side b is 7 units long. Side a is 6 units. Do you
see how these sides that are giving are coming together to form angle of 49 degrees? That
is what we were talking about here with 2 sides and an included angle. The angle is
between the two sides that are given. Now again law of sine would not be possible for
this question because there is no way finding this side right off the bat without doing
law of sine or cosine. You can’t find these angle measures here because, well we only
have one angle out of 180 degrees that are inside so we can’t immediately or easily find
angle A or angle B. So there is no way to set up that law of sine. We don’t have that
side and angle pairing. The only way to do this is with the law of cosine. So that being
said, let’s set that up. So side c squared, we are looking on this one if you want to
look at where the letters exactly where they should be in the formula. c squared is equal
to 7 squared plus 6 squared minus 2 times 7 times 6 times the cosine of the included
angle which is 49 degrees. Now do make sure that your graphing calculator or scientific
calculator is degree mode and not radian mode because you will get the wrong answer even
if you have set it up correctly. Now I can do 7 squared is 49 and 6 squared is 36, and
2 times 7 if 14 and 14 times 6 is um…84. But we are going to have to type this into
our calculator anyway, so if you have a graphing calculator or a 2 line scientific you are
just going to type this in all at once anyway and you get 29.9. Now that is not the length
of c, that is c squared. Don’t forget we are going to have to square root both sides of
this equation. When we square root both sides we are going to get c, the third side, is
the square root of 29.9 which is right off the top of my head approximately 5.5. So here
we go. Now, we need to find…we are going to find all the missing parts. So we need
to find angle A and angle B. Now just to review with you again I am going to do law of sine
for one and law of cosine for the other. That is really not necessary because once I find
one of those two unknown angles i can just subtract from 180 to find the third. But,
to review finding angle measures with sine and finding angle measures with cosine I am
going to both the long way. I am running out of room here so I am going to get this stuff
erased. Let’s find angle B. Now angle B is opposite the largest side of 7, so I am going
to make sure that I use the law of cosine incase angle B happens to be obtuse. I don’t
think is going to be because these are so similar in size, but I am going to do law
of cosine to find angle B just in case it is obtuse I don’t want to get the wrong answer
from my calculator trying to do law of sine. We have…let’s see here. 7 squared is equals
5.5 squared plus 6 squared minus 2 times 5.5 times 6 times the cosine of the angle we are
trying to find which is angle B. I am going ahead and move everything over step by step
so you see what I am doing, and then I just going to pull the answer from say a calculator
or off my tablet I am using to quicken up the pace here. I am also going to keep all
this in exact form. This 5.5 not attached to anything, it is just a positive 5.5 squared,
this is a positive 6 squared, so those are going to get moved using subtraction. So it
is going to be 7 squared minus 5.5 squared, minus 6 squared. Now the 2, the 5.5, and the
6, these are all attached to the cosine of B. This is all one term because they are all
being multiplied together. So that is going to have to be divided away from the cosine
of B. A lot of students will try and put all of these numerical values together, but if
they do that they are not following the order of operations. You cannot add and subtract
before you, these are all touching, so you can’t do all of that before you multiply.
So that is why I moved the 5.5 and the 6 over individually. Now I am going to divide everything
by, or both sides of this equation, by negative 2, 5.5, and 6 all multiplied together. So
negative 2 times 5.5 times 6 equals the cosine of B. Now when you put this in your calculator
all at once or in pieces it should come out to be .261 equals the cosine of B. Now the
cosine function has to get moved away from B. What is the inverse of the cosine function,
how do you undo the cosine function? You do the inverse cosine function. So B is equal
to the inverse cosine of .261. Put that in your calculator and make sure it is in degree
mode. You are going to get 74.9 degrees. So angle B is 74.9. This is our largest side
so this should be our largest angle. If it is not then we have made a mistake. That turned
out to be acute so we could have used the law of sine, but again we did not know that
ahead of time. Now to find angle A we could simply subtract these two angles from 180
degrees. That is fine when you are taking a test and it is timed. You don’t want to
run out of time. But if 74.9 is incorrect, then I am not going that and it going to carry
over to my other answer. So I am going to do the law of sine and just to review with
you as well the other law. And also if they add up to 180, you know there may be some
round off error then we have probably done all of our work correctly. What would this
look like? How would you find an angle measure again using the law of sine. You need a matching
side and corresponding angle. We are going to have, let’s see here, 7 over the sine of
74.9 equals 6 over the sine of A. Our variable is in the denominator and you cannot solve
for a variable when it is in the denominator. I am going to cross multiply this equation…multiply
both sides by the sine of A and multiply both sides by the sine of 74.9 to cancel out that
division. So we have 7 times the sine of A equals 6 times the sine of 74.9. We need to
divide both sides by 7. We have the sine of A is equal to 6 times the sine of 74.9 degrees
divided by 7. That means the sine of A is approximately…well that is what happens
when you do things off the top of your head. I picked a different number so I will be right
back with a calculator. Ok, so…get this thing turned on. Current document. So I need
6 sine of 74.9 divided by 7 comes out to be .827… actually .828 correctly rounded off.
Then A is equal to the inverse sine of .828. So A comes out to be the inverse sine of .828
which comes out to be approximately 55.9. Since I have gone off script here a little
bit. Let’s make sure these do add up to roughly 180 degrees. So 55.9 plus 49 plus 74.9 and
it is 179.8. So that .8 of a decimal is simply because of a little bit of round off error
I have in there. Again, you want to… You can find any measure you want both sides or
angles using law of cosine. I guess not all the time but occasionally. But when you are
looking for those missing angle measures you do often have a choice, but please do not
try to find the angle opposite the largest side using the law of sine. If you do, you
could possible get an incorrect answer. Again if that angle happened to be 97 degrees, the
law of sine would come out to be 83. Not probably…it would. Don’t use law of sine to find the largest
angle. I am Mr. Tarrou. Go Do Your Homework!

99 thoughts on “Law of Cosines

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    You make a teacher proud:D…see that big smile on my face!
    And if you are still studying 9 hours later, I know your going to be ready to go into class and show your teacher who's been studying and who hasn't!!!

  • Wahoo Gonzales Post author

    Dude when you help me you give me enough knowledge that i get 80s and 100s

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    You know it takes dedication from you to make that happen…I'm just here to furnish you with the lessons:)
    Keep up the great study habits and you'll change those 80's to 90's:)
    I just reminded you in another comment to keep sharing my channel with everyone:D Thanks for supporting!

  • Alexandria Costa Post author

    I'm just letting you know that I got a 93% on my final exam in Honors PreCalculus!! Your videos really helped me and they're the main reason I got an A. Thank you so much and I'm definitely going to use your videos for AP Calculus next year!

  • Christian Garcia Post author

    What do I do if no angles are given?

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Start the problem and find the angle opposite the largest side in case it is an obtuse angle. You would start with work like I am doing starting around minute 7:30.

  • Folderol Post author

    Me: Why do I keep getting decimals?
    ProfRobBob: …and make sure it's in degree mode.
    Me: …
    Me: -facepalm-

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    I do that too sometimes. I am reposting a very long video to fix a mistake where I said 1+2 is 2, so it happens to all of us. I am glad I reminded you to check your calculator:)

  • Alexandria Costa Post author

    I can't remember if I commented back, but I owe you a lot of thanks because I studied for my Honors Pre-Calculus Final solely by watching your videos and I got a 93! So thank you!:)

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    You did comment back…I just saw it when I came to this page to send you a reply today 7/22/13. I don't how I missed it, other than we did have some YouTube gmail issues:(
    Awesome news on your "A"…sounds like together we make quite a team and I look forward to helping you with AP Calc next year!…which is sadly, right around the corner:(…where did the summer go?!
    Did you see me on the NBC nightly news with Brian Williams 7/1/13?..check it out if you're bored.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    PS…THANK YOU for adding my channel to your :)CHECK OUT list as promised…I really do appreciate the support of loyal viewers like yourself!!!

  • Mackenzie Cross Post author

    You are seriously helping me majorly! I'm taking this course online and my grade at the end of the term determines if I get to go back to school or not. Up until now I thought I couldn't understand any of it and that I was doomed to fail! Now, I get everything you're saying and I feel like I grasp the concept. You are a great teacher!!!!

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Thank you Mackenzie…and you are an awesome student for not giving up and reaching out for some extra help! I hope my videos and your new found confidence continue to help you pass your on-line course with ease. I look forward to hearing the good news regarding your return to school…keep working hard and aim for that success thats right around the corner:)

  • Squiffy Fart Post author

    not just sohcahtoa but SOHCAHTOA!!!

  • Morgan Rockett Post author

    This was definitely comprehensive- thanks a lot.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    What can I say…Math brings the geek out in me:)

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    You're welcome…Thanks for choosing my channel to learn form:)

  • SU YA Post author

    hellow can u help me the formula of this given? a=8 b=7 c=? angle A=50degree B=? C=?

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Because the information given is in the SSA pattern you want to watch my video Ambiguous Case Law of Sines. Thank you very much for watching.

  • Paul Elker Post author

    Not that it really matters, but at the 5:30 mark you mention side a as 7, when really it is 6. You still get the same answer but I just wanted to bring it to your attention.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Thank you. Addition and Multiplication is commutative so I don't worry too much about exactly following the pattern of the formula. But, when doing an example I should have been a bit more careful about that:) Thank you and thank you for watching!

  • Stefan Herzog Post author

    Thank you so much for making videos I have found that as a student in college I really can't rely on my proff for teaching me the material thoroughly enough, so I am really glad that I have these videos to prepare for exams.

    Thank you so much you are a really good teacher.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    I approve all my comments to keep the channel suitable for all audiences and I just answered your first comment…I'm glad to see you are still watching more lessons and I hope you continue to find them helpful.
    I've had many viewers tell me they have started study groups and all watch a video and then together they work out problems…it always seems less dreadful if you have people to share with:)

  • surya narayanan Post author

    I Like Your Jumping 😛

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    …and "Thanks" for watching:)

  • Lino Gova Post author

    this is great, i had to miss class today so this more than made up for what i miss. Thank you!

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Thanks for watching…I hope you will return whenever you need more math help in the future:)

  • Lino Gova Post author

    yes of course, you got a new sub.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    THANKS for subscribing and supporting!

  • Jay Bay Post author


  • Mike Post author

    Good video. Helped a lot.  I like how randomly energetic you became on certain things haha. 

  • Dylan Jenkins Post author

    You're the bomb man. SOHCAHTOA!! 

  • Zaeem Post author

    Thank you! Great teacher, always come to your videos help help. 
    Keep doing what you do!

  • Karen Yang Post author

    then… can you use law of sines within an obtuse triangle to find one of its acute angles or corresponding side lengths? I know you can't find the obtuse angle/longest side length, but what about the other two acute angles?

  • os rs Post author

    Thanks a lot man I'm doing bad in geometry cuz of my confusing teacher but your videos are making up for it

  • Rihua chen Post author

    Thanks for adding in different scenarios like the bearings and whatnot. Great guide to review from!

  • CoffeeJunkie Post author

    Couldn't you just use sinA/a = SinB/b?

  • xXItstrayceceXx Post author

    Thank you so much! I was so confused in math class untill I saw this video! I really appreciate it! 🙂

  • UnleashedMonkey Post author

    great video, really helped!! small suggestion: maybe include a sample problem in the video description(with the answers all the way in the bottom) for viewers to try and test it out. by the way, I subbed. I'm sure I'll be on this channel a lot throughout the semester ^-^ 

  • Cedric Nkolla Post author

    You are the best! I can even skip class and still get an A in my Precal class thanks to your excellence in Pedagogy!

  • Iran Arellano Post author

    Wait isnt a supposed to be 6 and b supposed to be 7?

  • Mikaila Post author

    When you say SOHCAHTOA during the first 2 minutes i actually cry!! omg your to greatt! so helpful!! 

  • josh futureheart Post author

    Do you have a video about Law of Tangents?

  • Aryanne_v2 Post author

    The Law of Cosines and Sines confused me so much. Thank you for these. They explained them perfectly.

  • Trieu Nguyen Post author

    love your lesson keep it up. thank for the help

  • Joshua Celis Post author

    You are the reason I think I will pass my final tomorrow. Thank you keep working hard. 

  • jzim123 Post author

    I plugged in the law of cosines just like you did, but can't figure out how you get square root of 29.9 for side C. I keep getting c=(cos 49), and getting a very small number for side C. 

  • John Carlo Esteban Post author

    BAAAM! Thank You so much for this Sir! 🙂

  • Darien Perez-Martin Post author

    It would be awesome to see some applications. Off the top of my head I could think of how useful this would be to calculate the distance between various test charges and a source, and then us the results to calculate the strength of the electric force at that location in the electric field! Thank You!!

  • Joe W Post author

    Thanks, Professor. Great lesson!

  • Giovanny Montez Post author


  • BoomPnaes Post author

    Sir i have a question why my teacher says that the correct formula for finding angle for law of cosine is b^2+c^2-a^2 divided by 2(b)(c) if finding the cosineA like that but why youre solution is…… b^2-c^2-a^2 divided by -2(a)(b) why its negative? i really confused sir Bob if which is true, i hope you can read what i post, thank you so much. im your #1 subscriber.

  • Charles Henry Post author

    4th video about laws of sine and cosine; and the other's were not nearly as informative/helpful.  especially about the law of sine not working for obtuse angle.

  • Justin Dixon Post author

    Alright… whoa whoa WHOA… your first example says 7^2=5.5^2+6^2-2(5.5)(6)Cos(B)

    That makes no sense because it was a C^2= problem, but C = 5.5 according to what you've got listed on the top of the board, A=6, B=7… none of that makes any sense. 

  • Kelvin Lao Post author

    you are the man. Without you, i would've definitely failed.

  • Billy James Post author

    Thank you so much! I don't know what I was doing wrong but I was just not getting it. I watched a couple videos and looked up step-by-step solutions and yours is the only one that actually made sense! Thank you! 🙂

  • Pranav Vinchurkar Post author

    Thanks! Really helpful.

  • Merlin Post author

    I cant get the .261. How did you get that. Even if put it all into my calculator.

  • stefranqui C. Post author

    Awesome awesome awesome!!! 😀

  • Inan Ismailov Post author

    You have no idea how happy i get when you jump in the video and will get the material in my head in 15 minutes.


    Hi Professor! 🙂
    I really appreciate your instructional video and it's more clearer to understand. 🙂
    And actually, on the spot, I quickly understand the lesson.
    Thank you so much for helping not only me but other students which are not good in Math. 🙂
    And actually now is just 1 hour before our quiz when I watched this. 🙂

  • nile majesty lobusta Post author

    just have been doin' my 100-item assignment for almost 2 days, and when I've got your tutorial prof, so happy that i just have to download it and make it as my tutor.. thank you so much..

  • MrSaintskid11 Post author

    Thanks So much… I would not have passed my test without this!

  • Jared atienza Post author

    GOOD VIDEOS. Hope i could pass my exam with your help! 

  • GutierrezAnthony Post author

    Honestly can't thank you enough for really breaking this down for me to fully comprehend, gonna ace this test in honor of you.

  • Ken Bonilla Post author

    Okay, so why when you have found the values of sides a,b,c, don't you just use the law of sines to find the smaller of the two missing angles, and then just subtract the two known angles from 180 for the remaining angle? Seems like a lot less work, and since there can never be more than one obtuse angle there isn't any way to mess up.

  • ProfRobBob Post author

    Law of Cosines is now Closed Captioned:D

  • Rob Gaines Post author


  • Sunday Dammy Post author

    This is awesome! Explain better than my professor at school. Thank you so much sir! You just made my day… May God continue to bless you abundantly!

  • Wubs4Scrubs Post author

    Learned more in 15 minutes than I did during a 90 minute class period, thank you so much!

  • Puresynergyfitness Post author

    wish you also had a site with worksheets / practice problems and a key

  • anmol choudhary Post author

    this video confused me

  • Juan Ignacio Post author

    Another great video! Thanks!!

  • ShamamalamaSama Post author

    I love you.

  • theBoiiiiiiiCReme Post author

    you're awesome! You made understanding these topics easy!

  • Tanisha Williams Post author

    I love your energy and animation! lol

  • Nadim Post author

    It's awesome, thank you very much!

  • Jansenn Post author

    Professor ,about the ending of the video , can I use this formula in order to get Angle A?

    A = 180-(B+C) ??

    btw sir, you're awesome 😀

  • Andi Dittakavi Post author

    I learned so much more by watching your vids thank you so much!!!!!!!!

  • Anthony Wesley Silva Post author

    He contradicted himself when solving for angle A. Instead of using b/SinB he should've used the given information which is c/SinC. If a mistake was made it would've carried over using b/SinB=a/SinA

  • Brandon Hodges Post author

    ambiguous angles are what you are thinking of lol

  • Branco Sebastian Martinez Post author

    if only i knew how to use the calculator

  • Jerome Post author

    Law of tangents pls

  • Sheila Ona Post author


    it should be + not – 6^2

  • Rae Johnson Post author

    Mr. T thank you so much for this video! I appreciate your excellent instruction and great teaching style. You're really a gifted teacher!

  • Tes H Post author

    question here…in the last example of this video, we're given two sides and one angle of a triangle, however after applying the law of cosine to find the the third side, can't we determine if the opposite angle of the largest side is obtuse or acute from the Pythagoras theorem and then we can straight head on to the law of sine to find the largest angle and then we take the supplementary angle instead by subtraction from 180°?

    while # 1 below is obvious, I'm not sure if # 2 and 3 will make any sense or if they're already established rules please excuse my slacking for not researching but right off my head I felt that,

    1. right triangle, if c^2 = a^2 + b^2

    2. if c^2 < a^2 + b^2, then the opposite angle of the largest side would be acute

    3. if c^2 > a^2 + b^2, then the opposite angle of the largest side would be obtuse

  • Tyler Bhame Post author

    you saved my grade thank you!

  • Sameerah a Post author

    Really helpful but could you have used sine law to find the rest of the angle ?

  • vylon10 Post author

    my college professor asked me to discuss law cosines in class, this video will really be a big help thanks

  • justforyouenjoi Post author

    Thanks for the video. It really helps a lot. My school uses pearson online with Tom Atwater who is the worst video instructor of all time.

  • Luis abcdefg Post author

    He mixed a^2 and c^2. I thought I was going crazy.

  • dudee wtf Post author

    Amazing video!!! Thank you

  • Brahmini Ravi Post author

    I hate trig

  • Kenzo Tenma Post author

    you're awesome man I like your videos, I learned a lot honestly. 😀

  • ivan Post author

    Bam what a lesson prof bob

  • Nicolas Nepomuceno Post author

    when your teacher is crap so you have to resort to youtube for help.

  • Joey Lynn Post author

    Tell me why he’s more helpful than my precal teacher.

  • Luis Diaz Post author

    I could picture you jumping when you are 80 years old. BAAM there goes AlGEbra.

  • Tanya Todd Post author

    Is that an old school pencil sharpener to the right?? lol GREAT VIDEO! Thanks!

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