8.4 The Distance Between Points

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8.4 The Distance Between Points
A final application of the Pythagorean Theorem is on the coordinate plane. We can easily find the
distance between two points vertically or horizontally on a coordinate plane just by counting, but finding the
exact distance diagonally we have not been able to do until now.
The Distance between Any Two Points
On a coordinate plane, we can now find the distance between any two points by drawing in a right
triangle and using the Pythagorean Theorem. Consider the following example:
Notice that if we want to find the distance between these two points,
2,2 and 5,6, we need to find the length of . Also note that is the
horizontal distance between the points and is the vertical distance between
the points. With all those values we now have a right triangle and can use the
Pythagorean Theorem as follows:
3
4
9 16 25 5
So we know that the distance between these points is five units. While this is easy to see when drawn out
on the coordinate plane, there are times when we are given the two points without a picture. In that case, we
have two options. We can either draw the points on the coordinate plane as above, or we can find the horizontal
and vertical distance between the points in another way.
To do this without graphing, we realize that the horizontal distance between two points is the difference
in their values. Why is this? Similarly, the vertical distance between two points is the difference in their values. Again, can you explain why?
So let’s look at our two points again, 2,2 and 5,6. The horizontal distance would be the difference
between 2 and 5. Since difference means subtract, we can take 5 2 3 to find the horizontal distance is 3.
Similarly we can subtract the values to get 6 2 4 meaning a vertical distance of 4. We can then plug in 3
and 4 into the Pythagorean Theorem and solve exactly as above.
278
Enrichment: The Distance Formula
Using the information above, how would we find the distance between two generic points? We typically
represent generic points with the notation of , ) and (
, ). So what would the horizontal and vertical
distance between these two points be?
Horizontal distance: ℎ = − Vertical distance: = − Finally, let’s substitute these into the Pythagorean Theorem of ℎ
+ = as follows and then solve for
since is the actual distance between the points.
(
− )
+ (
− )
= (
− )
+ (
− )
= (
− )
+ (
− )
= The final result is what is known as the distance formula. Let’s use this formula to find the distance
between the points (−3, 4) and (3, −4).
= (
− )
+ (
− )
= (3 − (−3))
+ ((−4) − 4)
= (6)
+ (−8)
= √36 + 64
= √100
= 10
We see that the distance between those two points is ten units. While the distance formula works, it is
often easier to simply visualize the horizontal and vertical distance between two points mentally or on a
coordinate plane. The distance formula is basically a fancy way to use the Pythagorean Formula and is meant for
enrichment only.
279
Lesson 8.4
Determine the distance between the given points. Round your answers to three decimal places if necessary.
280
1. 1, 3) and (4, 7)
2.
2.
(−3, 3) and (2, −9)
3. 2, −5) and (3, −8)
4.
(−3, −3) and (3, 3)
5. 3, −2) and (5, 0)
6.
(−3, −9) and (−3, 9)
7. 2, 1) and (3, −3)
8.
(4, −2) and (7, 2)
9. 1, 1) and (7, 9)
10. (−8, 2) and (6, 2)
11. 4, 6) and (6, 2)
12. (2, 4) and (5, −2)
13. 5, −3) and (6, 6)
14. (−5, 4) and (7, 3)
281
282
15. 9, −3) and (−4, 4)
16. (2, −4) and (5, 4)
17. 0, 7) and (4, 2)
18. (−8, 7) and (7, −5)

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