# Inverse Functions: Arccosine and Dot Products (Part 22)

Here’s a straightforward application of arccosine, that, as far as I can tell, isn’t taught too often in Precalculus and is not part of the Common Core standards for vectors and matrices.

Find the angle between the vectors $\langle 1,3 \rangle$ and $\langle -2,1 \rangle$.

This problem is equivalent to finding the angle between the lines $y = 3x$ and $y = -x/2$. The angle $\theta$ is not drawn in standard position, which makes measurement of the angle initial daunting.

Fortunately, there is the straightforward formula for the angle between two vectors ${\bf a}$ and ${\bf b}$:

$\theta = \cos^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{ {\bf a} \cdot {\bf b} }{ \parallel \!\! {\bf a} \!\! \parallel \parallel \!\! {\bf b} \!\! \parallel } \right)$

We recall that ${\bf a} \cdot {\bf b}$ is the dot product (or inner product) of the two vectors ${\bf a}$ and ${\bf b}$, while $\parallel \!\! {\bf a} \!\! \parallel = \sqrt{ {\bf a} \cdot {\bf a} }$ is the norm (or length) of the vector ${\bf a}$.

For this particular example,

$\theta = \cos^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{\langle 1,3 \rangle \cdot \langle -2,1 \rangle }{ \parallel \!\!\langle 1,3 \rangle \!\! \parallel \parallel \!\!\langle -2,1 \rangle \!\! \parallel } \right)$

$\theta = \cos^{-1} \left( \displaystyle \frac{ (1)(-2) + (3)(1) }{ \sqrt{ (1)^2 + (3)^2} \sqrt{ (-2)^2 + 1^2 }} \right)$

$\theta = \cos^{-1} \displaystyle \frac{1}{\sqrt{50}}$

$\theta \approx 81.87^\circ$

In the next post, we’ll discuss why this actually works. And then we’ll consider how the same problem can be solved more directly using arctangent.