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Unit Circle

- Calculus
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Let's look at the unit circle, how to construct one, and what it is useful for in maths.

The unit circle has a radius of 1, with a centre at the origin (0,0). Therefore the **formula for the unit circle** is

This is then used as a basis in trigonometry to find trigonometric functions and derive Pythagorean identities.

We can use this circle to work out the sin, cos and tan values for an angle 𝜃 between 0 ° and 360 ° or 0 and 2𝜋 radians.

For any point on the circumference of the unit circle, the x-coordinate will be its cos value, and the y-coordinate will be the sin value. Therefore, the unit circle can help us find the values of the trigonometric functions sin, cos and tan for certain points. We can draw the unit circle for commonly used angles to find out their sin and cos values.

The unit circle has four **quadrants: the** four regions (top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left) in the circle. As you can see, each quadrant has the same sin and cos values, only with the signs changed.

Let's look at how this is derived. We know that when 𝜃 = 0 ° , sin𝜃 = 0 and cos𝜃 = 1. In our unit circle, an angle of 0 would look like a straight horizontal line:

Therefore, as sin𝜃 = 0 and cos𝜃 = 1, the x-axis has to correspond to cos𝜃 and the y-axis to sin𝜃. We can verify this for another value. Let's look at 𝜃 = 90 ° or 𝜋 / 2.

In this case, we have a straight vertical line in the circle. We know that for 𝜃 = 90 ° , sin 𝜃 = 1 and cos 𝜃 = 0. This corresponds to what we found earlier: sin 𝜃 is on the y-axis, and cos 𝜃 is on the x-axis. We can also find tan 𝜃 on the unit circle. The value of tan 𝜃 corresponds to the length of the line that goes from the point on the circumference to the x-axis. Also, remember that tan𝜃 = sin𝜃 / cos𝜃.

The unit circle for sin, cos and tan

From Pythagoras' theorem, we know that for a right-angled triangle . If we were to construct a right angled triangle in a unit circle, it would look like this:

So a and b are sin𝜃, and cos𝜃 and c is 1. Therefore we can say: which is the first Pythagorean identity.

The unit circle has a radius of 1 and a centre at the origin.

The formula for the unit circle is .

The unit circle can be used to find sin and cos values for angles between 0 ° and 360 ° or 0 and 2𝜋 radians.

The x-coordinate of points on the circumference of the unit circle represents the cos value of that angle, and the y-coordinate is the sin value.

Cos is the x-coordinate of a point on the circumference of the circle and sin is its y-coordinate.

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