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The Trigonometric Functions

Stefan Waner and Steven R. Costenoble

This Section: 2. The Six Trigonometric Functions

Modeling 3. Derivatives of Trigonometric "Real
Section 2
with the Trigonometric Functions Main World"
Sine Functions Page Page
2. The Six Trigonometric Functions
The two basic trigonometric functions are: sine (which we have already studied), and
cosine. By taking ratios and reciprocals of these functions, we obtain four other functions,
called tangent, secant, cosecant, and cotangent.


Let us go back to the bicycle introduced in the preceding section, and recall that the sine
of t, sin t, was defined as the y-coordinate of a marker on the wheel. The cosine of t,
denoted by cos t, is defined in almost the same way, except that this time, we use the x-
coordinates of the marker on the wheel. (See the figure.)

cos t is defined as the x-coordinate of the point P shown.

First notice that the coordinates of the point P in the above diagram are (cos t, sin t), and
that the distance from P to the origin is 1 unit. From the distance formula in Chapter 8 of
Calculus Applied to the Real World or Chapter 15 of Finite Mathematics and Calculus
Applied to the Real Worldwe have:

Square of the distance from P to (0, 0) = 1

(sin t)2 + (cos t)2 = 1

We often write this as

sin2t + cos2t = 1,

ant so we have found a relationship between the sine and cosine function.

Fundamental Trigonometric Identity

sin2t + cos2t = 1

Let us now turn attention to the graph of the cosine function. The graph, as you might
expect, is almost identical to that of the sine function, except for a "phase shift" (see the

This gives the following new pair of identities.

Further Relationships Between Sine and Cosine

The cosine curve is obtained from the sine curve by shifting it to the left a distance of /2.
Conversely, we can obtain the sine curve from the cosine curve by shifting it /2 units to
the right.

cos t = sin(t + /2)

sin t = cos(t /2)

Alternative formulation

We can also obtain the cosine curve by first inverting the sine curve vertically (replace t by
t) and then shifting to the right a distance of /2. This gives us two alternative formulas
(which are easier to remember)

cos t = sin( /2 t)
sin t = cos( /2 t)

Since we can model the cosine function with a sine function, who needs the cosine
function anyway?

Technically, that is correct; we don't need the cosine function and we can get by with the
sine function by itself. On the other hand, it is convenient to have the cosine function
around, since it starts at its highest point, rather than zero.

Modeling with the Cosine Function (General Cosine Curve)

Note that the basepoint is at the higher point of the curve. All the constants have the same
meaning as for the general sine curve:

A is the amplitude (the height of each peak above the baseline)

C is the vertical offset (height of the baseline)
P is the period or wavelength (the length of each cycle)
is the angular frequency, given by = 2 /P
is the phase shift (the horizontal offset of the basepoint; where the curve reaches
its maximum)
Example 1 Cash Flows into Stock Funds

The annual cash flow into stock funds (measured as a percentage of total assets) has
fluctuated in cycles of approximately 40 years since 1955, when it was at a high point.
The highs were roughly +15% of total assets, while lows were roughly 10% of total

(a) Model this cash flow with a cosine function of the time t in years with t = 0
representing 1955.
(b) Convert the answer in part (a) to a sine function model.
* Source: Investment Company Institute/The New York Times, February 2, 1997. p. F8.


(a) Cosine modeling is similar to sine modeling: We are seeking a function of the form
P(t) = A cos[ (t )] + C.

Amplitude A and Vertical Offset C:

Since the cash flow fluctuates between 10% and +15%, we see that A = 12.5, and C =

Period P:
This is given as P = 40.

Angular Frequency :
This is given by the formula

= 2 /P = 2 /40 = /20 0.157.

Phase Shift :
The basepoint is at the high point of the curve, and we are told that cash flow was at its
high at t = 0. Therefore, the basepoint occurs at t = 0, and so = 0.

Putting this together gives

P(t) = A cos[ (t )] + C
= 12.5cos(0.157t) + 2.5,

where t is time in years.

(b) To convert between a sine and cosine model, we can use the relations given above.
Here, let us use the formula

cos x = sin(x + /2).


P(t) = 12.5cos(0.157t) + 2.5

= 12.5sin(0.157t + /2) + 2.5.

The Other Trigonometric Functions

As we said above, we can take ratios and reciprocals of sine and cosine to obtain four
new functions. Here they are.
Tangent, Cotangent, Secant, and Cosecant
sin x
tan x = tangent
cos x
cos x 1
cotan x = = cotangent
sin x tan x
sec x = secant
cos x
cosec x = cosecant
sin x

Example 2

Use technology to graph the curve y = sec x for 2 x 2



sec x = 1/cos x,

we can enter this function as

Y1 = 1/cos(x).

To set the window, let us use 2 x 2 , and 7 y 7. Here is the graph we obtain.

What are the vertical lines doing here?

Since we defined the secant function as sec x = 1/cos x, we know that it is not defined
when the denominator is zero. That is, when

cos x = 0.

Consulting the graph of cos x, we find that this occurs when x = ± /2, ±3 /2, ±5 /2,...
Therefore, these values are not in the domain of the secant function. Further, as x
approaches these values, sec x becomes very large numerically, but changes sign when
we cross these values, causing the graphing calculator to make sudden jumps from large
negative values of y to large positive values. Thus, the vertical lines are asymptotes.

If you have studied the section on limits in Chapter 3 of Calculus Applied to the Real
World, or Chapter 10 of Finite Mathematics and Calculus Applied to the Real World, you
will recognize this phenomenon in terms of limits; For instance,

x /2 sec x =
x /2+ sec x =

Before we go on...

Here are the graphs of all four of these functions. You might try to reproduce them and
think about the asymptotes

tan x = sin x/cos x

cotan x = cos x/sin x

sec x = 1/cos x

cosec x = 1/sin x

The Trig Functions as Ratios in a Right Triangle

Let us go back to the figure that defines the sine and cosine, but this time, let us think of
these two quantities as lengths of sides of a right triangle:

We are also thinking of the quantity t as a measure of the angle shown rather than the
length of an arc. Looking at the figure, we find that

sin t = length of side opposite the angle t = opposite = opposite

1 hypotenuse
adjacent adjacent
cos t = length of side adjacent to the angle t = =
1 hypotenuse
sin t opposite
tan t = =
cos t adjacent

This gives us the following six formulas

The Trigonometric Functions as Ratios in a Right Triangle

Defining Formula Ratio in Right Triangle

sin t = y-coordinate of point P sin t =
cos t = x-coordinate of point P cos t =
sin t opposite
tan t = tan t =
cos t adjacent
cos t adjacent
cotan t = cotan t =
sin t opposite
1 hypotenuse
sec t = sec t =
cos t adjacent
1 hypotenuse
cosec t = cosec t =
sin t opposite

Modeling 3. Derivatives of Trigonometric "Real
Section 2
with the Trigonometric Functions Main World"
Sine Functions Page Page
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Stefan Waner ( Steven R. Costenoble (

Last Updated: March, 1997
Copyright © 1997 StefanWaner and Steven R. Costenoble