Distance formula
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How to use the distance formula to find distances between (x,y) points.

This topic is part of the TCS FREE high school mathematics 'How-to Library', and will help you to use the distance formula to find distances between (x,y) points.
(See the index page for a list of all available topics in the library.) To make best use of this topic, you need to download the Maths Helper Plus software. Click here for instructions.


The distance 'd' between the points A = (x1, y1) and B = (x2, y2) is given by the formula:

This formula is an application of Pythagoras' theorem for right triangles:

For example, consider the two points A (1,4) and B (4,0),

so:  x1 = 1,  y1 = 4,  x2 = 4, and y2 = 0.

Substituting into the distance formula we have:


Maths Helper Plus can use the distance formula to find the distance between two points. Also, it will show you the working steps and draw a labelled diagram.  

Step 1 Download the free support file... We have created a Maths Helper Plus document to complement this topic. You can use it to practice the steps described below, and as a starting point for solving your own problems.

File name:  'Distance Formula.mhp'   File size: 7kb
Click here to download the file.

If you choose 'Open this file from its current location', then Maths Helper Plus should open the document immediately. If not, try the other option: 'Save this file to disk', then run Maths Helper Plus and choose the 'Open' command from the 'File' menu. Locate the saved file and open it. If you do not yet have Maths Helper Plus installed on your computer, click here for instructions.


Step 2  Display the parameters box

Press the F5 key to display the parameters box:


The coordinates of the two (x,y) points are entered into the four edit boxes 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D', as follows:

x1 = A,  y1 = D,  x2 = B, and y2 = X.

To calculate the distance between any two points, enter the coordinates into the edit boxes.


To enter the coordinates, click on the 'A' edit box with the mouse, then type the x1 coordinate. Now click on the 'D' edit box and type the y1 coordinate. Continue until the four coordinates are entered, then click the 'Update' button.


Step 3  Adjust the scale of the labelled diagram

If the labelled diagram does not display the points, the scale needs to be reduced. In this case, briefly press the F10 key enough times until the two plotted points are seen.


You can make the diagram bigger by holding down 'Ctrl' while you press F10.


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