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Noemi Villa

Unit circle and trig expressions for special angles

The topic I chose is “ how to use the unit circle to

evaluate trig expressions for special angles, including
secant, cosecant, and cotangent”. The first thing you
really need to understand to begin these types of
problems, is how to use the unit circle to find any trig
expression. We learned how to find the basic trig
expressions on a unit circle last year (expressions such
as sine, cosine, and tangent). To find the special trig
expressions, it’s the same thing, but the expressions
are variations of sine, cosine and tangent. For
example, to find secant, the expression is 1 over cosine. There is also cosecant, which is 1
over sine. The last variation is cotangent, which is 1 over tangent. Another important thing
to know in order to find these expressions on the unit circle, is what the special angles are,
and where they are on the circle. The 3 main special angles you need to know are the 30°,
the 45°, and the 60° angles. You also need to know which angle corresponds to each of the
radians. For example, π⁄6 corresponds to 30°, π∕ 4 corresponds to 45°, and π⁄3 corresponds
to 60°. Once you know where these angles and radians are, you need to know what their
coordinates are. All of the coordinates are either (½),(√3/2),(√2/2), and the negative forms of
those. You need to know that any π/4 angle will be either positive or negative √2/2, and
that the π/3 and π/6 angles will be either positive or negative √3/2, or positive or negative
1/2. Other important coordinates to know are that π/2 is (0,1), π is (-1,0), 3π/2 is (0,-1), and
2π is (1,0). Another thing you need to know is what coordinates cosine and sine correspond
to. Cosine corresponds to the x coordinate, and sine corresponds to the y coordinate.
Tangent is just cosine over sine. Now that you know these things, you can find what any
angle or radian on the unit circle is equal to.

One example of what you might be asked to solve is to evaluate cotangent of 4π/3. Here are the
steps you need to follow in order to solve this problem.
1. Firstly, you need to find the radian (4π/3).
2. Once you find where it is on the unit circle, you need to figure out the coordinates. In this
case, the coordinates are (-1/2, and -√3/2)
3. Now, using the coordinates, find cotangent (cotangent is 1 over tangent, or sine over
cosine). For this problem, it would be (-√3/2) ÷ (-1/2), or -√3/2 × 2 /-1. The 2’s cancel
out, so you are left with the √3/-1, which simplifies to the √3. That is your answer.

This topic relates to graphing periodic functions, such as sine and cosine. Knowing the
values of each radian, and its corresponding coordinate, we can find all the points we need
to graph both the sine, and the cosine graph. When graphing the sine graph, the points on
the graph will be the angle (in radians), and the value of sine. For instance, the first point
will be on (π/6, ½). The value of sine (in this case, ½), will be on the y axis of the graph,
and the radians (in this case, π/6) will be on the x axis. The next point would be on (π/4,
√2/2), and so on. You continue to graph these points, until you have made the curve that
shows the sine graph. You can also make the cosine graph the same way, just using the
cosine values, rather than the sine values (the first point would be (π/6, √3/2), instead of

(π/6, ½))

The unit circle and trig functions are used in things like architecture, engineering,
geography, astronomy, digital imaging, or to calculate distances like the heights of
mountains or how far away the stars in the sky are. The graphs of sine and cosine are used to
see the behavior of light, sound, and electricity. Sine and cosine functions can also be used to
model radio waves, tides, musical tones, and electrical currents. The way that these functions
connect with musical tones (sine in particular), is that you can describe a musical note using
the radians in the sine function. For instance, to describe the note “A”, the equation would
be y=sin⦋ 440(2πt)] = sin(880πt), where 440 is the frequency of the note “A”. The sine graph
also looks identical to the graph of wave patterns, which describes the cyclical nature of
vibrational energy, including sound.