How to Find the Area of a Triangle with 3 Coordinate Points
In applied math and geometry, the bounaries of shapes are often given by spatial coordinates. If you have a triangle whose points are defined as (x, y)-coordinates, it is harder to apply the traditional formulas for triangular area such as Heron's formula, trig-based formulas, or the base-height formula. Instead, you can compute the area of the triangle subtractively by figuring the areas of simpler regions surrounding the triangle.
Step 1: Plot the Triangle and Draw a Rectangle Around It
Every triangle can be surrounded by a rectangle so that the points of the triangle lie on the edges of the rectangle. This creates several new shapes whose areas are easy to compute by hand. By way of example, we will start with a triangle whose Cartesian coordinates are (3, 3), (-2, 1), and (1, -4).
Step 2: Calculate the Area of the Rectangle
The area of a rectangle is simply the width times the length. In this example, the surrounding rectangle's area is 35 square units because it is 5 units wide and 7 units long.
Step 3: Calculate the Areas of the Surrounding Right Triangles
When you bound the original triangle by a rectangle, you produce several right triangles around the perimeter of the orignal triangle. The areas of these triangles are 1/2 times the product of the leg lengths (1/2 base times height). In this example we have three right triangles whose leg lengths are
7 and 2
5 and 3
2 and 5
This gives us areas of
0.5*7*2 = 7
0.5*5*3 = 7.5
0.5*2*5 = 5
The sum of these areas is 7 + 7.5 + 5 = 19.5 square units.
Step 4: Subtract the Areas of the Right Triangles from the Rectangle
When you subtract the combined area of the right triangles from the rectangle, the left over amount is the area of the original triangle. This is because the area of the original triangle plus the areas of the right triangles adds up to the total area of the rectangle.
In this example, the area of the rectangle is 35 square units and the total area of the right triangular regions is 19.5 square units. Therefore, the area of the original triangle is
35 - 19.5 = 15.5 square units.
More Geometry Resources
Related tutorials to help you calculate the areas and volumes of geometric figures.
- 3-Coord. Triangle Calculator
- List of Geometry Formulas for Angle, Length, Area, and Volume
- How to Find the Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism (Rectangular Box) with Examples
- How to Find the Area, Perimeter, and Diagonal of a Rectangle
- How to Maximize the Volume (Capacity) of a Rectangular Box Cut From a Rectangle
There is a shortcut formula that only requires the coordinates of the triangle. If the vertices are (A, B), (C, D), and (E, F), then the area of the triangle bound by these points is
0.5 * | AD+CF+EB-AF-CB-ED |
where | | is the absolute value function (i.e. positive values stay positive and negative values become negative). If we apply this formula to our example with coordinates (3, 3), (-2, 1), and (1, -4) we have
A = 3
B = 3
C = -2
D = 1
E = 1
F = -4
area = 0.5 * | 3 + 8 + 3 - (-12) - (-6) - 1|
= 0.5 * |31|
just as we obtained using the subtractive method.