The use of rectangular coordinate system is presented along with examples, questions and their solutions.

A rectangular coordinate system in a Plane is used to plot points having an \( x \) coordinate and a \( y \) coordinate. A vertical number line, also called the y-axis, and a horizontal number line, also called x-axis, intersecting at a right angle form a system of coordinates in a plane as shown in figure 1 below. The point of intersection of the x and y axes is called the origin of the system of coordinates.

The x and y axes split the plane into four quadrants as noted in the figure above.

Example

In the example below, the \( x \) coordinate of point \( A \) is \( 4 \) and therefore positive, hence point \( A \) is located to the right of the y-axis in the direction of the arrow of the x-axis.

The \( x \) coordinate of point \( B \) is \( -5 \) and therefore negative, hence point \( B \) is located to the left of the y-axis in the direction opposite to the arrow of the x-axis..

The \( y \) coordinate of point \( A \) is \( 2 \) and therefore positive, hence point \( A \) is located above the x-axis in the direction of the arrow of the y-axis..

The \( y \) coordinate of point \( B \) is \( -2 \) and therefore negative, hence point \( B \) is located above the x-axis in the direction opposite to the arrow of the y-axis..

More practice on plotting points in rectangular coordinate system is included.

The signs of the \( x \) and \( y \) coordinates of a given point, gives enough information to find the quadrant of that point without plotting it.

Example

Points \( A = (4,2) \) and \( C = (-4,3) \) are both located above the x axis because their \( y \) coordinates \( 2 \) and \( 3 \) are both positive. But point \( A \) is on the right of the y axis and hence in quadrant I because its \(x \) coordinate \( 4 \) is positive.

The \( x \) coordinate of \( C \), which is \( -4 \), is negative and therefore point \( C \) is to the left of the y axis, hence located in quadrant II.

Similar remarks could be made about points \( E = (-4,-2) \) in quadrant III and \( G = (4,-2) \) in quadrant IV.

Conclusion

Given a point with coordinates \( x \) and \( y \), and without plotting the point, we can find the quadrant where the point will be located from the signs of \( x \) and \( y \).

If \( x \gt 0 \) and \( y \gt 0 \), the point is in quadrant I

If \( x \lt 0 \) and \( y \gt 0 \), the point is in quadrant II

If \( x \lt 0 \) and \( y \lt 0 \), the point is in quadrant III

If \( x \gt 0 \) and \( y \lt 0 \), the point is in quadrant IV

Any point whose \( x \) coordinate is equal to zero, is located in the y axis because its distance from the y axis is equal to zero.

Example

Points \( A = (0,3) \), \( D = (0,-2) \) and \( E = (0,-4) \) all have the \( x \) coordinate equal to zero and are therefore located in the y axis. (see figure 4 below)

Any point whose \( y \) coordinate is equal to zero, is located in the x axis because its distance from the x axis is equal to zero.

Example

Points \( G = (6,0) \), \( C = (-2,0) \) and \( B = (-8,0) \) all have the \( y \) coordinate equal to zero and are therefore located in the x axis. (see figure 4 below)

\( A = (-32,-89) \; , \; B = (0,45) \; , \; C = (-88,0) \; ; \; D = (57,89) \; ; \; E = (0,-77) \; ; \; F = (45,-38) \; ; \; G = (49,0) \; ; \; H = (-90,-56) \)

Group 1: \( A = (2,2) \; , \; B = (-4,2) \; , \; C = (-4,-1) \; , \; D = (2,-1) \)

Group 2: \( A = (1,2) \; , \; B = (-2,2) \; , \; C = (-5,-2) \; , \; D = (5,-2) \)

Group 3: \( A = (0,4) \; , \; B = (-2,2) \; , \; C = (0,-4) \; , \; D = (2,2) \)

\( A = (0,1) \), \( B = (2,0) \), \( C = (1,3) \), \( D = (-1,-1) \), \( E = (1,-3) \), \( F = (-3,1) \), \( G = (0,-4) \), \( H = (-3,0) \)

\( A = (-32,-89) \) in quadrant III

\( B = (0,45) \) on the y axis, above the x axis

\( C = (-88,0) \) on the x axis, to the left the y axis

\( D = (57,89) \) in quadrant I

\( E = (0,-77) \) on the y axis, below the x axis

\( F = (45,-38) \) in quadrant IV

\( G = (49,0) \) on the x axis, to the right the y axis

\( H = (-90,-56) \) in quadrant III

Group 1: \( A = (2,2) \; , \; B = (-4,2) \; , \; C = (-4,-1) \; , \; D = (2,-1) \)

The four given points form a rectangle as shown below.

Group 2: \( A = (1,2) \; , \; B = (-2,2) \; , \; C = (-5,-2) \; , \; D = (5,-2) \)

The four given points form a trapezoid as shown below.

Group 3: \( A = (0,4) \; , \; B = (-2,2) \; , \; C = (0,-4) \; , \; D = (2,2) \)

The four given points form a kite as shown below.

plotting points in rectangular coordinate system

Geometry Tutorials and Problems

The Four Pillars of Geometry - John Stillwell - Springer; 2005th edition (Aug. 9 2005) - ISBN-10 : 0387255303

Geometry: A Comprehensive Course - Daniel Pedoe - Dover Publications - 2013 - ISBN: 9780486131733

Geometry: with Geometry Explorer - Michael Hvidsten - McGraw Hill - 2006 - ISBN: 0-07-294863-9