 SOLVING TRIGONOMETRIC EQUATIONS Note: If you would like a review of trigonometry, click on trigonometry.

Example 2:        Solve for x in the following equation. There are an infinite number of solutions to this problem.

Let's manipulate the equation to make solving for x a little easier. Rewrite the left side of the equation in an equivalent factored form. The product of factors equals zero if at least one of the factors equals zero. This means that if We just transformed a difficult problem into two easier problems. To find the solutions to the original equation, , we find the solutions to the equations or  How do we isolate the x in each of these equations? We could take the inverse (arcsine) of both sides of each equation. However, the sine function is not a one-to-one function.

Let's restrict the domain so the function is one-to-one on the restricted domain while preserving the original range. The graph of the sine function is one-to-one on the interval If we restrict the domain of the sine function to that interval , we can take the arcsine of both sides of each equation. In each of these cases, x is the reference angle. We know that , therefore Since the period of equals , these solutions will repeat every units. The exact solutions are where n is an integer.

The approximate values of these solutions are where n is an integer.

You can check each solution algebraically by substituting each solution in the original equation. If, after the substitution, the left side of the original equation equals the right side of the original equation, the solution is valid.

You can also check the solutions graphically by graphing the function formed by subtracting the right side of the original equation from the left side of the original equation. The solutions of the original equation are the x-intercepts of this graph.

Algebraic Check:

Check solution Left Side: Right Side: Since the left side of the original equation equals the right side of the original equation when you substitute 0.659058 for x, then 0.659058 is a solution.

Check solution Left Side: Right Side: Since the left side of the original equation equals the right side of the original equation when you substitute -0.659058 for x, then -0.659058 is a solution.

Check solution Left Side: Right Side: Since the left side of the original equation equals the right side of the original equation when you substitute 2.48253 for x, then 2.48253 is a solution.

Check solution Left Side: Right Side: Since the left side of the original equation equals the right side of the original equation when you substitute 3.8006506 for x, then 3.8006506 is a solution.

We have just verified algebraically that the exact solutions are , and and these solutions repeat every units. The approximate values of these solutions are , <tex2htmlcommentmark> -0.659058, 2.48253 and 3.8006506 and these solutions repeat every units.

Graphical Check:

Graph the function ,formed by the left side of the equation. The x-intercepts of the graph are the real solutions.

Note that the graph crosses the x-axis many times indicating many solutions. Let's check a few of these x-intercepts against the solutions we derived.

Verify the graph crosses the x-axis at 0.659058. Since the period is , you can verify that the graph also crosses the x-axis again at 0.659058+6.2831853=6.94224 and at , etc.

Verify the graph crosses the x-axis at -0.659058. Since the period is , you can verify that the graph also crosses the x-axis again at -0.659058+6.2831853=5.62413 and at , etc.

Verify the graph crosses the x-axis at 2.48253. Since the period is , you can verify that the graph also crosses the x-axis again at 2.48253+6.2831853=8.7657 and at , etc.

Verify the graph crosses the x-axis at 3.8006506. Since the period is , you can verify that the graph also crosses the x-axis again at 3.8006506+6.2831853=10.083835 and at , etc.

Note: If the problem were to find the solutions in the interval , then you choose those solutions from the set of infinite solutions that belong to the set  2.48253, 3.8006506 and If you would like to work another example, click on Example.

If you would like to test yourself by working some problems similar to this example, click on Problem.

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[Calculus] [Complex Variables] [Matrix Algebra] S.O.S MATHematics home page Author: Nancy Marcus