**Start revising A-level & GCSE with 7 million other students**

# Coordinates in 2D

## You are here

***Please note: you may not see animations, interactions or images that are potentially on this page because you have not allowed Flash to run on S-cool. To do this, click here.***

## Coordinates in 2D

**Coordinate geometry** is a method of analysing geometric shapes.

To start off with, let us consider one of the simplest geometric problems: describing the position of points on a 2-dimensional surface (such as a piece of paper).

**The position of points will usually be referred to in one of these three ways:**

- Fixed point: for example, (2,6).
- Generic fixed points: for example, (x
- General points: for example, (x, y). This is telling us that the point can be anywhere along a shape.

_{1}, y

_{1}), (x

_{2}, y

_{2}).

Using coordinates means that we have to define where we start measuring from. When we are defining points on a graph, our point of reference is nearly always the origin or (0, 0).

The next thing to be happy with is how to calculate the distance between any 2 points.

**We are interested in finding the distance from A to B. A is at (x _{1}, y_{1}) and B is at (x_{2}, y_{2}). Let's take a look at this using the diagram below:**

We want to find the distance between A and B. If you look at the diagram above, we have added an imaginary point L, so that the triangle ABL is a right-angled triangle.

**Using Pythagoras' Theorem we can now express the length of the line AB in terms of A, B and L:**

**AB ^{2} = AL^{2} + BL^{2}**

Remember that the position of A is (x_{1}, y_{1}) and the position of B is (x_{2}, y_{2}). So the distance between A and L is x_{2} - x_{1} and the distance between B and L is y_{2} - y_{1} (see diagram above).

**Hence, we can re-write the above equation as:**

**AB ^{2} = (x_{2} - x_{1})^{2} + (y_{2} - y_{1})^{2}**

Solving this for AB gives us the equation we are trying to prove, telling us that the distance between A and B can be expressed by:

So now you can find the distance between any two points (x_{1}, y_{1}) and (x_{2}, y_{2}), and also understand how the formula was derived!

**Here's a quick example of how this would work with numbers.**

The distance between (2,6) and (-3,9) is:

The next step is to learn how to calculate the midpoint, M, between any two points.

**Consider this diagram:**

M is the midpoint of A and B.

The x coordinate of the midpoint M is found by taking the average of the x coordinate of the points A and B (this is half way between x_{1} and x_{2} on the diagram above).

The y coordinate of the midpoint M is also found by taking the average of the y coordinates of the points A and B (this is half way between y_{1} and y_{2} on the diagram).

**Therefore, we can say that:**

The x coordinate of M equals

The y coordinate of M equals

So using this technique you can find the midpoint of any line defined by two points. e.g. the midpoint of (2,6) and (-3,9) is (-0.5, 7.5)

The **gradient** of a straight line measures its slope in relation to the x-axis. In other words, the amount that y increases for every unit increase in x.

**The gradient of a line can be positive or negative.**

A positive gradient has is an '**uphill**' slope in relation to the positive x-axis, and this means that a positive increase in the x direction is accompanied by a positive increase in the y direction.

A negative gradient has a '**downhill**' slope in relation to the positive x-axis. This means that a positive increase in the x direction is accompanied by a decrease in the y direction.

**How to calculate the gradient of a line**

The gradient of a line is the increase in the y coordinate divided by the increase in the x coordinate between any 2 points on a line.

**Looking at the graph we can say that:**

* Note:* This method can only be used to find the gradient of a straight line. If you need to find the gradient of a point on a curve, you need to use differentation (

**see the Differentiation Learn-It. There is a whole S-cool! topic dedicated to differentiation.**)