Tuesday, May 26, 2015

[OlymPri20150526] The Smallest Angle in a Special Trapezium


     This looks challenging because we do not seem to be given much information.  For example, we do not know the individual angles of the trapezium (American: trapezoid).  Does this mean that this puzzle cannot be solved?  Are we trapped by this trapezium?  What is the secret key that unlocks the problem?

     First sketch trapezium  ABCD.  Introduce point  F,  the mid-point of  AD.  All contructed lines and points are shown in grey (American: gray).  Then  DF = FA = BC. 
Now draw a line parallel to  BC  passing through  A  and intersecting  DC  at  E, say.  Note that ÐAED = ÐBCD  (corresponding angles).  Then  ÐADE + ÐAED = ÐADC + ÐBCD = 120°.  Hence the remaining angle  in  DDAEÐDAE = 180° – 120° = 60°.  We can deduce this, even though we do not (currently) know the individual angles  ÐADE  and  ÐAED.  This is the key step.
From here, things get easier.  DAFE  is an isosceles triangle with  ÐAFE = ÐAEF = (180° – 60°) ¸ 2 = 60°.  So  DAFE  is in fact an equilateral triangle.  That means  FE = FA = FD.  So  DFDE  is an isosceles triangle.

Note that  ÐAFE  is an exterior angle of the triangle  DFDE.  If you know that exterior angle of a triangle is the sum of the interior opposite angles,  then from  ÐAFE = ÐFED + ÐFDE,  we easily see that  ÐADE = ÐFDE = 60° ¸ 2 = 30°.  If you do not know the theorem about exterior angles, you can still quickly work out that  ÐDFE = 120°,  and then use  ÐADE = (180° – 120°) ¸ 2  and arrive at the same conclusion.  ©

     We can now see that actually  ÐBCD  = ÐAED  = 90°,  but we do not need to rely on that (or on accurate drawing) to deduce the answer.  From solving this question, we learn that even though we do not know the individual angles, by construction and using the sum of angles in a triangle, it is possible to solve for an important angle, namely  ÐAFE.  The rest of the solving uses isosceles triangles and equilateral triangles, which are part of the common repertoire of tactics.

H02. Use a diagram / model
H04. Look for pattern(s)
H05. Work backwards
H09. Restate the problem in another way
H10. Simplify the problem
H11. Solve part of the problem
H12* Think of a related problem   (Draw construction lines)

Suitable Levels
Primary School Mathematics

* other syllabuses that involve area of triangles and circles

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