Converting from Cartesian to Polar Coordinates
(KS3, Year 7)
- r is the radial coordinate of the point in polar coordinates.
- θ is the angular coordinate of the point in polar coordinates.
- x is the x-coordinate of the point in Cartesian coordinates.
- y is the y-coordinate of the point in Cartesian coordinates.
How to Convert from Cartesian to Polar Coordinates
Converting from the Cartesian to the polar coordinates of a point is easy.Question
What is a point described by the Cartesian coordinates (3, 4) in polar coordinates?Step-by-Step:
Find the Radial Coordinate
1
2
3
$$Radial\:coordinate = \sqrt{3^2 + 4^2}$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = \sqrt{(3 \times 3) + (4 \times 4)}$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = \sqrt{9 + 16}$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = \sqrt{25}$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = 5$$
Find the Angular Coordinate
4
5
$$Angular\:coordinate = tan^{-1} \Big(\frac{4}{3}\Big)$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = tan^{-1} \Big(1.33\Big)$$
$$\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\: = 53.1°$$
6
Answer:
The Cartesian coordinates (3, 4) become (5, 53.1°) when converted to polar coordinates.Interactive Widget
Here is an interactive widget to help you learn about converting between Cartesian and polar coordinates.Why Do the Formulas Work?
Polar coordinates form a right triangle: The radial coordinate is the hypotenuse and the angular coordinate is the angle. Using Pythagoras' Theorem, the square of the hypotenuse is the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The x-coordinate is the adjacent of the triangle and the y-coordinate is the opposite of the triangle.Square Roots
Finding the radial coordinate r requires finding a square root. Apart from the square roots of square numbers, most square roots are not whole numbers. Sometimes it is more exact to just write a number as a square number rather than calculating and rounding it. For example, the square root of 8 can be written as:Worksheet
This test is printable and sendable