Sign up ×
Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The solution to Putnam 2000 A5 uses this formula, for which the following proof is given: (source:

Let the sides (of triangle $ABC$) have lengths $a, b, c$ as usual. The question suggests that we use some relationship of the form $abc = constant \times R$. ...

To prove the relation, let $O$ be the centre of the circumcircle. Project $AO$ to meet the circle again at $K$. Let $AH$ be the altitude. Then angle $ABC = \angle AKC$, so triangles $ABH$ and $AKC$ are similar. Hence $\frac{AB}{AH} = \frac{AK}{AC}$ or $\frac{c}{AH} = \frac{2R}b$. Hence $abc = 2R·a·AH = 4\Delta R$.

The bold part confuses me. How does $ABC = AKC$? $K$ is dependent wholly on $O$ and $A$ whereas $B$ is independent of both. And if $ABC = AKC$, how does that lead to $ABH \sim AKC$?

share|cite|improve this question
Inscribed Angle Theorem? – Blue Jul 30 '14 at 23:08
The bold part is in fact the result of a theorem called "angles in the same segment". Or equivalently, "equal arcs, then equal angles". – Mick Jul 31 '14 at 5:28
Note also that angle ABH = 90 degrees (AH is the altitude from A to BC) and angle ACK = 90 degrees (angles in semi-circle). Therefore, the two triangles are similar (AAA). – Mick Jul 31 '14 at 8:25
@Mick Thanks for the comment. But I am still confused. Don't you mean AHB not ABH? AHB = ACK = 90 and ABC = AKC. But how does that make ABH ~ AKC? In order to prove similarity we need ABH = AKC but we have ABC = AKC instead. – user1299784 Jul 31 '14 at 21:28
@user1299784 The confusion comes from you and the author (and also me) are drawing different pictures. It will be quite clear if you re-draw your picture and let your angle B be acute (instead of obtuse). Then, H will lie inside the circle (instead of outside). The next question is then “why an obtuse triangle won’t work?” The answer is “it will also work" but the proof will run differently. – Mick Aug 1 '14 at 2:24

1 Answer 1

Angles intercepting the same arc are equal. Both angles are intercepting $\widehat{AC}$.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.