"As long as algebra and geometry have been separated, their progress has been slow and their uses limited; but when these two sciences have been united, they have lent each mutual forces, and have marched together towards perfection." -- Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813)
French mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650) was the first to employ algebra in solving geometry problems. His key insight, and one that has affected the study of mathematics ever since, was that of the development of coordinate geometry (or Cartesian geometry, named for its creator).
By convention, the axes are shown in the horizontal and vertical positions. The horizontal axis is called the x-axis, and the vertical is called the y-axis. When you describe a point, you list the coordinates in order (x,y). There's nothing magical in these conventions; they just make it easy for everyone to understand each other.
The coordinates of the point are about (2.1,1.4).
To use the power of algebra to solve problems in geometry, you need the distance formula -- a way to measure the distance between two points. Luckily, the distance formula is just a special case of the Pythagorean theorem, so you don't have to remember anything new.
Use the following Interactive Activity to experiment with the distance formula and to answer Problem C4.
This activity requires the Flash plug-in, which you can download for free from Macromedia's Web site. For a non-interactive version of this activity, plot the given pair of points on graph paper and find the distance between them by applying what you know from the Pythagorean theorem.