Video: Finding the Unknown Length in a Triangle Using the Right Triangle Altitude Theorem

Find the length of segment line BD.

02:44

Video Transcript

Find the length of 𝐡𝐷.

So, we’re trying to find this length and we can do so using similar right triangles. Two right triangles are similar to each other if an acute angle in one triangle is equal to the measure of an acute angle in the other triangle. Triangle 𝐴𝐡𝐢 and triangle 𝐷𝐡𝐴 each have a right angle at angle 𝐡𝐴𝐢 and at angle 𝐡𝐷𝐴. And angle 𝐡𝐷𝐴 is equal to 90 degrees because angle 𝐴𝐷𝐢 β€” this one β€” is 90 degrees. And since they’re right next to each other and make a straight line, angle 𝐡𝐷𝐴 is 90 degrees.

So and these triangles both share a common angle measure at angle 𝐡. They share that angle. Therefore, triangle 𝐴𝐡𝐢 and triangle 𝐷𝐡𝐴 are similar and their side lengths are proportional to each other. So, we can set up a proportion: 𝐡𝐷 is to 𝐡𝐴 as 𝐴𝐡 is to 𝐢𝐡.

And we can solve proportions by cross multiplying and solving. So, we have 𝐡𝐷 times 𝐢𝐡 is equal to 𝐡𝐴 times 𝐴𝐡. But those are the exact same side. So, we can write it as 𝐴𝐡 squared.

So, let’s begin plugging in some side lengths. We know that 𝐴𝐡 is equal to 15 centimeters. We don’t know 𝐢𝐡. And 𝐡𝐷 is actually what we’re trying to solve for. So, is there a way that we can find the length of 𝐢𝐡? We can, by using the Pythagorean theorem because triangle 𝐴𝐡𝐢 is a right triangle.

The Pythagorean theorem states the square of the longest side is equal to the sum of the squares of the shorter sides. So, out of triangle 𝐴𝐡𝐢, the longest side is across from the 90-degree angle, which would be 𝐢𝐡, making the two shorter sides 15 and 20. 15 squared is 225 and 20 squared is 400. Adding them together, we get 625.

And to solve for 𝐢𝐡, we need to square root both sides. Therefore, 𝐢𝐡 is equal to 25. And now we can plug this in. So, let’s go ahead and square 15. And we get 225.

Now to solve for 𝐡𝐷, we need to divide both sides of the equation by 25. The 25s cancel on the left. And we find that 𝐡𝐷 is equal to nine. Therefore, the length of 𝐡𝐷 is equal to nine centimeters.

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