The 15-75-90 Triangle

The 15-75-90 Triangle

As the 30-60-90 triangle is based on an equilateral triangle, the 45-45-90 triangle is based on a square, the 18-72-90 and 36-54-90 triangles are based on the regular pentagon (see, and the 22.5-67.5-90 triangle is based on the regular octagon (see previous post), so the 15-75-90 triangle is based on the regular dodecagon, shown here with three radii (red) and a single diagonal (purple). The 15-75-90 triangle is shown in yellow. An argument from symmetry is sufficient to show that angle EFC is the right triangle in this triangle, and the larger of its two acute angles (angle FCE) is one-half of an interior angle of this dodecagon. The interior angle of a regular decagon measures 150 degrees (the proof of this is trivial), and so angle FCE must measure half that amount, or 75 degrees. This leaves 15 degrees for angle CEF, via the triangle sum theorem.

What about the side lengths of the 15-75-90 triangle, though? First, consider the red diagonals shown, and let them each have a length of 2. Angles DAF and FAE each measure 30 degrees, since 360/12 = 30, and they are central angles between adjacent radii. This makes angle DAE 60 degrees by angle addition, and triangle DAE is known to be isosceles, since the two red sides are radii of the same regular dodecagon, and therefore are congruent. By the isosceles triangle theorem and triangle sum theorem, then, angles ADE and AED each also measure (180-60)/2 = 60 degrees, so triangle ADE is therefore equilateral, with the purple side, DE, also having a length of two. Symmetry is sufficient to see that DE is bisected by radius AC, which leads to the conclusion that EF, the long leg of the 15-75-90 triangle, has a length of 1.

Segment AF is a median, and therefore also an altitude, of equilateral triangle ADE, and splits it into two 30-60-90 triangles, one of which is triangle AEF. Its hypotenuse, AE, is already known to have a length of 2, while its short leg, EF, is already known to have a length of 1. Segment AF is therefore the long leg of this 30-60-90 triangle, with a length of √3.

AF, length √3, and FC, the short leg of the 15-75-90 triangle, together form dodecagon radius AC, already set at length 2. By length subtraction, then, FC, the 15-75-90 triangle’s short leg, has a length of 2 – √3. A test is prudent at this point, by taking the tangent of the 15 degree angle FEC in the yellow triangle. Tan(15 degrees) is equal to 0.26794919…, which is also the decimal approximation for FC/EF, or (2 – √3)/1.

All that remains to know the length ratios for the sides of the 15-75-90 triangle is to determine the length of EC, its hypotenuse, via the Pythagorean Theorem. The square of length EC must equal the square of 1 plus the square of (2 – √3), so EC, squared, equals 1 + 4 – 4√3 + 3, or 8 – 4√3. The hypotenuse (EC) must therefore be the square root of 8 – 4√3, which is √(8-4√3)) = 2√(2-√3)).

The short leg:long leg:hypotenuse ratio in a 15-75-90 triangle is, therefore, (2-√3):1:2√(2-√3)).

17 thoughts on “The 15-75-90 Triangle

  1. Could you get the same results for the sides just knowing the median from the right angle to the opposite side? ( The length of the median being the geometric mean of the short side and long side.)


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  4. Hey… can you explain if the angles are in the ratio multiples of 18 and 15 , what will be the ratio of sides ?


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