Langley’s Adventitious Angles (Part 1)

Math With Bad Drawings had an interesting post about solving for x in the following picture (this picture is taken from

I had never heard of this problem before, but it’s apparently well known and is called Langley’s Adventitious Angles. See Math With Bad Drawings, Wikipedia, and Math Pages for more information about the solution of this problem. Math Pages has a nice discussion about mathematical aspects of this problem, including connections to the Laws of Sines and Cosines and to various trig identities.

I’d encourage you to try to solve for x without clicking on any of these links… a certain trick out of the patented Bag of Tricks is required to solve this problem using only geometry (as opposed to the Law of Cosines and the Law of Sines). I have a story that I tell my students about the patented Bag of Tricks: Socrates gave the Bag of Tricks to Plato, Plato gave it to Aristotle, it passed down the generations, my teacher taught the Bag of Tricks to me, and I teach it to my students. In the same post, Math With Bad Drawings has a nice discussion about pedagogical aspects of this problem concerning when a “trick” becomes a “technique”.

I recommend this problem for advanced geometry students who need to be challenged; even bright students will be stumped concerning coming up with the requisite trick on their own. Indeed, the problem still remains quite challenging even after the trick is shown.

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