Math Help: Coordinate Geometry

Coordinate geometry is one kind of math you will really need in adult life. How else will you be able to read maps? Here are some tips to help you get comfortable with this new type of math, including one fun way to practice at home.

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Learning to Use Coordinate Graphs in Geometry

Geometry Vocabulary

X- and Y-Axis

On a coordinate graph, the x-axis is the horizontal line, and the y-axis is the vertical line. When you are just beginning to learn about coordinate graphs, it often helps to label these two axes so you don't get confused.

Ordered Pair

An ordered pair is made up of the two coordinates and is written like this: (x, y). The first number is read in terms of the x-axis and the second number is identified in terms of the y-axis. An example of an ordered pair is (5, 7). Ordered pairs are sometimes called 'entries' as well, so five would be the first entry, and seven would be the second entry.

Midpoint Formula

The midpoint formula refers to the mathematical equation needed to find the point that is exactly in between two other points. Let's say you have the numbers four and 12, and you need to find the midpoint between them. First, you have to find the average of four and 12. You can do so by adding four and 12 and then dividing that number by two. In this case, 4 + 12 =16, so 16 ÷ 2 = 8. The midpoint between four and 12 is eight.

How to Find Points on a Graph

One of the first activities you'll do when learning coordinate geometry is identifying ordered pairs on a graph. Let's say you have to locate the ordered pair from the example above (5, 7).

Begin by finding the number five along the x-axis (the horizontal line). Now place the tip of your pencil on that spot, and follow it up until you see the number seven on the vertical line to the left (known as the y-axis). If you extend another finger to the right from the number seven on the y-axis, you will find the point (5, 7).

Read Maps for Practice

Most maps (like the ones for cities, states and even countries) use coordinate geometry to illustrate where places are in relation to each other. When you are first learning to find points on a graph and create basic shapes using coordinate geometry, map reading can help you practice. Reading maps also gives you a sense of the practical, real-life uses of coordinate geometry. Using a map, locate two places and graph the distance between them using the map's key.

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