Figures in 1 and 2 Dimensions

Learning Objective(s)

·         Identify and define points, lines, line segments, rays and planes.

·         Classify angles as acute, right, obtuse, or straight.

Introduction

You use geometric terms in everyday language, often without thinking about it. For example, any time you say “walk along this line” or “watch out, this road quickly angles to the left” you are using geometric terms to make sense of the environment around you. You use these terms flexibly, and people generally know what you are talking about.

In the world of mathematics, each of these geometric terms has a specific definition. It is important to know these definitions—as well as how different figures are constructed—to become familiar with the language of geometry. Let’s start with a basic geometric figure: the plane.

Figures on a Plane

A plane is a flat surface that continues forever (or, in mathematical terms, infinitely) in every direction. It has two dimensions: length and width.

You can visualize a plane by placing a piece of paper on a table. Now imagine that the piece of paper stays perfectly flat and extends as far as you can see in two directions, left-to-right and front-to-back. This gigantic piece of paper gives you a sense of what a geometric plane is like: it continues infinitely in two directions. (Unlike the piece of paper example, though, a geometric plane has no height.)

A plane can contain a number of geometric figures. The most basic geometric idea is a point, which has no dimensions. A point is simply a location on the plane. It is represented by a dot. Three points that don’t lie in a straight line will determine a plane.

The image below shows four points, labeled A, B, C, and D.

Two points on a plane determine a line. A line is a one-dimensional figure that is made up of an infinite number of individual points placed side by side. In geometry all lines are assumed to be straight; if they bend they are called a curve. A line continues infinitely in two directions.

Below is line AB or, in geometric notation, . The arrows indicate that the line keeps going forever in the two directions. This line could also be called line BA. While the order of the points does not matter for a line, it is customary to name the two points in alphabetical order.

The image below shows the points A and B and the line .

 Example Problem Name the line shown in red. The red line goes through the points C and F, so the line is . Answer

There are two more figures to consider. The section between any two points on a line is called a line segment. A line segment can be very long, very short, or somewhere in between. The difference between a line and a line segment is that the line segment has two endpoints and a line goes on forever. A line segment is denoted by its two endpoints, as in .

A ray has one endpoint and goes on forever in one direction. Mathematicians name a ray with notation like , where point E is the endpoint and F is a point on the ray. When naming a ray, we always say the endpoint first. Note that  would have the endpoint at F, and continue through E, which is a different ray than , which would have an endpoint at E, and continue through F.

The term “ray” may be familiar because it is a common word in English. “Ray” is often used when talking about light. While a ray of light resembles the geometric term “ray,” it does not go on forever, and it has some width. A geometric ray has no width; only length.

Below is an image of ray EF or . Notice that the end point is E.

 Example Problem Identify each line and line segment in the picture below. Two points define a line, and a line is denoted with arrows. There are two lines in this picture:  and .   A line segment is a section between two points.  is a line segment. But there are also two more line segments on the lines themselves:  and . Answer Lines: Line segments:

 Example Problem Identify each point and ray in the picture below. There are four points: A, B, C, and D.   There are also three rays, though only one may be obvious.   Ray  begins at point B and goes through C. Two more rays exist on line : they are  and . Answer Points: A, B, C, D Rays:

 Which of the following is not represented in the image below?     A) B) C) D)   Show/Hide Answer

Angles

Lines, line segments, points, and rays are the building blocks of other figures. For example, two rays with a common endpoint make up an angle. The common endpoint of the angle is called the vertex.

The angle ABC is shown below. This angle can also be called ,  or simply . When you are naming angles, be careful to include the vertex (here, point B) as the middle letter.

The image below shows a few angles on a plane. Notice that the label of each angle is written “point-vertex-point,” and the geometric notation is in the form .

Sometimes angles are very narrow; sometimes they are very wide. When people talk about the “size” of an angle, they are referring to the arc between the two rays. The length of the rays has nothing to do with the size of the angle itself. Drawings of angles will often include an arc (as shown above) to help the reader identify the correct ‘side’ of the angle.

Think about an analog clock face. The minute and hour hands are both fixed at a point in the middle of the clock. As time passes, the hands rotate around the fixed point, making larger and smaller angles as they go. The length of the hands does not impact the angle that is made by the hands.

An angle is measured in degrees, represented by the symbol º. A circle is defined as having 360º. (In skateboarding and basketball, “doing a 360” refers to jumping and doing one complete body rotation.

A right angle is any degree that measures exactly 90º. This represents exactly one-quarter of the way around a circle. Rectangles contain exactly four right angles. A corner mark is often used to denote a right angle, as shown in right angle DCB below.

Angles that are between 0º and 90º (smaller than right angles) are called acute angles. Angles that are between 90º and 180º (larger than right angles and less than 180º) are called obtuse angles. And an angle that measures exactly 180º is called a straight angle because it forms a straight line!

 Example Problem Label each angle below as acute, right, or obtuse. You can start by identifying any right angles.    is a right angle, as indicated by the corner mark at vertex F.   Acute angles will be smaller than  (or less than 90º). This means that  and  are acute.    is larger than , so it is an obtuse angle. Answer and  are acute angles.  is a right angle.  is an obtuse angle.

 Example Problem Identify each point, ray, and angle in the picture below. Begin by identifying each point in the figure. There are 4: E, F, G, and J. Now find rays. A ray begins at one point, and then continues through another point towards infinity (indicated by an arrow). Three rays start at point J:  and . But also notice that a ray could start at point F and go through J and G, and another could start at point G and go through J and F. These rays can be represented by  and . Finally, look for angles.  is obtuse,  is acute, and  is straight. (Don’t forget those straight angles!) Answer Points: E, F, G, J Rays: Angles:

 Identify the acute angles in the image below.     A) B) C) D)   Show/Hide Answer

Measuring Angles with a Protractor

Learning how to measure angles can help you become more comfortable identifying the difference between angle measurements. For instance, how is a 135º angle different from a 45º angle?

Measuring angles requires a protractor, which is a semi-circular tool containing 180 individual hash marks. Each hash mark represents 1º. (Think of it like this: a circle is 360º, so a semi-circle is 180º.) To use the protractor, do the following three steps:

1.      line up the vertex of the angle with the dot in the middle of the flat side (bottom) of the protractor,

2.      align one side of the angle with the line on the protractor that is at the zero degree mark, and

3.      look at the curved section of the protractor to read the measurement.

For practice using a protractor, try out the activity below:

Sorry, the GeoGebra Applet could not be started. Please make sure that Java 1.4.2 (or later) is installed and active in your browser (Click here to install Java now)

The example below shows you how to use a protractor to measure the size of an angle.

 Example Problem Use a protractor to measure the angle shown below. Use a protractor to measure the angle. Align the blue dot on the protractor with the vertex of the angle you want to measure. Rotate the protractor around the vertex of the angle until the side of the angle is aligned with the 0 degree mark of the protractor. Read the measurement, in degrees, of the angle. Begin with the side of the angle that is aligned with the 0º mark of the protractor and count up from 0º. This angle measures 38º. Answer The angle measures 38º.

 What is the measurement of the angle shown below?     A) 45º B) 135º C) 145º D) 180º   Show/Hide Answer

Summary

Geometric shapes and figures are all around us. A point is a zero-dimensional object that defines a specific location on a plane. A line is made up of an infinite number of points, all arranged next to each other in a straight pattern, and going on forever. A ray begins at one point and goes on towards infinity in one direction only. A plane can be described as a two-dimensional canvas that goes on forever.

When two rays share an endpoint, an angle is formed. Angles can be described as acute, right, obtuse, or straight, and are measured in degrees. You can use a protractor (a special math tool) to closely measure the size of any angle.