Coordinate Geometry

Coordinate Geometry

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The Fundamentals of Coordinate Geometry: Understanding the Cartesian Plane

Coordinate geometry, also known as Cartesian geometry, is a crucial aspect of mathematics that focuses on the Cartesian plane, a two-dimensional space formed by the intersection of the x and y axes. This plane is essential in representing mathematical concepts through graphs and equations, providing visual aids for understanding complex ideas such as parallel and perpendicular lines and non-linear curves.

Exploring the Three Key Sections of Coordinate Geometry

To fully comprehend coordinate geometry, we will delve into three main sections: straight line graphs, circles, and parametric equations.

  • Straight Line Graphs: A fundamental component of coordinate geometry, this section explores the concept of gradients and how they can be utilized to create mathematical models. It also covers the principles of parallel and perpendicular lines.
  • Circles: This section delves into techniques such as completing the square to determine the radius and center of a circle. It also demonstrates how knowledge of straight line graphs can aid in finding tangents to circles.
  • Parametric Equations: A unique approach to representing equations in terms of a single variable, this section is valuable for solving complex equations.

Now, let's take a closer look at each of these sections.

Straight Line Graphs

Straight line graphs are essential to understanding coordinate geometry. This section involves learning how to calculate gradients and intercepts, as well as comprehending the fundamentals of parallel and perpendicular lines. Practical applications of straight line graphs will also be explored.

For example, consider the following question:

An ice-cream van makes £5 for every ice cream sold. To avoid a loss, how many ice creams must be sold?

Solution: The equation for this situation is , where x represents the number of ice creams sold and y represents the amount of money made. The gradient of this line is 5, indicating that each sale is worth £5. By setting the equation to and solving for x, we can determine that at least 3 ice creams must be sold to break even.


Circles are another essential aspect of coordinate geometry. Combining knowledge of circles with other concepts from this field can help solve more complicated problems.

Remember, a circle with a radius r and center (a,b) has an equation . Here's an example of a circle question at A-Level:

A circle has an equation . What is the equation of the tangent at ?

Parametric Equations

Parametric equations represent equations in terms of one variable, typically denoted as t. This approach is valuable for solving complex equations that cannot be easily graphed.

For instance, the following parametric equations represent a circle:

Now, let's look at an example of a question involving parametric equations:

A curve C contains the following parametric equations. Prove that . Show that the Cartesian equation of C is , where a and b are constants to be found.


By substituting t=0 into the given equations, we can determine that . Using the addition formula, this simplifies to .

Next, we can find the equations of C by substituting for x and y in terms of t into the Cartesian equation, . Expanding and simplifying this equation leads us to . Therefore, the Cartesian equation of C is , where a=3 and b=4.

Key Points to Remember about Coordinate Geometry

  • Straight line graphs can be represented by y=mx+c, where m is the gradient and c is the y-intercept.
  • Parallel lines have equal gradients, while perpendicular lines have gradients that are negative reciprocals of each other.
  • Circles can be described using their radius and center point, with the equation .
  • Coordinate geometry connects various geometrical concepts with the rules of lines in the Cartesian plane.
  • Parametric equations allow us to represent equations in terms of one variable, making it easier to solve complex equations.

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