Learn how to find the area of a parallelogram using its base and height. After trying the questions, click on the buttons to view answers and explanations in text or video.
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Bases and Heights of Parallelograms
Let’s investigate the area of parallelograms some more.
Illustrative Math Unit 6.1, Lesson 5 (printable worksheets)
5.1 - A Parallelogram and Its Rectangles
Elena and Tyler were finding the area of this parallelogram:
Open Tyler’s solution and Elena’s solution. Drag the sliders to see the animation.
How are the two strategies for finding the area of a parallelogram the same? How they are different?
In the above example, the length of one side of the parallelogram, which is also the length of one side of the rectangle, is called the base.
The length of the vertical cut, which is also the length of the vertical side of the rectangle, is called the height.
In this example, the base of the parallelogram is 7 units and the height of the parallelogram is 6 units.
5.2 - The Right Height
Study the following examples and non-examples of bases and heights of parallelograms.
Examples: The dashed segment in each drawing represents the corresponding height for the given base.
Non-examples: The dashed segment in each drawing does not represent the corresponding height for the given base.
Select all statements that are true about bases and heights in a parallelogram.
A. Only a horizontal side of a parallelogram can be a base.
B. Any side of a parallelogram can be a base.
C. A height can be drawn at any angle to the side chosen as the base.
D. A base and its corresponding height must be perpendicular to each other.
E. A height can only be drawn inside a parallelogram.
F. A height can be drawn outside of a parallelogram, as long as it is drawn at a 90-degree angle to the base.
G. A base cannot be extended to meet a height.
A is false. B is true. Two of the example parallelograms have their diagonal side labeled as a base.
C is false. D is true. All of the examples have their heights drawn at 90-degree angles to their bases.
E is false. F is true. One of the examples has its height drawn outside the parallelogram at a 90-degree angle to its base.
G is false. Since the height is always perpendicular (at 90-degree angles) to the base, they will intersect.
Five students labeled a base b and a corresponding height h for each of these parallelograms. Are all drawings correctly labeled? Explain how you know.
A is correct.
B is incorrect. The labeled height is not perpendicular to the base.
C is correct. The height can be drawn outside the parallelogram, as long as it is perpendicular to the base or an extension of the base.
D is correct. Any side of a parallelogram can be the base.
E is incorrect. The labeled height is one of the parallelogram’s sides, not a line perpendicular to the base.
Open the applet. Experiment with dragging all of the movable points around the screen. Can you change the parallelogram so that:
2-4.
Note that the height of the parallelogram corresponds to one of the rectangle’s sides.
5.3 - Finding the Formula for Area of Parallelograms
For each parallelogram:
In the last row of the table, write an expression using b and h for the area of any parallelogram.
parallelogram | base (units) | height (units) | area (sq units) |
A | |||
B | |||
C | |||
D | |||
any parallelogram | b | h |
parallelogram | base (units) | height (units) | area (sq units) |
A | 4 | 6 | 24 |
B | 5 | 3 | 15 |
C | 2 | 3 | 6 |
D | 4 | 2 | 8 |
any parallelogram | b | h | b × h |
The area of a parallelogram A = b × h. Hence, if a given height h doubles the result would be b × 2h = 2A, where A was the original area. If the height triples, the area would triple. If the height is 100 times the original, the area would be 100 times the original.
The area of a parallelogram A = b × h. Hence, if a given height h and a given base b are doubled the result would be 2b × 2h = 4A, where A was the original area. If both the height and base tripled, the area would be 3 × 3 = 9 times the original area. If both the height and base were 100 times the original the area would be 100 × 100 = 10000 times the original area.
Lesson 5 Summary
Here are two copies of the same parallelogram. On the left, the side that is the base is 6 units long. Its corresponding height is 4 units. On the right, the side that is the base is 5 units long. Its height is 4.8 units. For both, three different segments are shown to represent the height. We could draw in many more!
No matter which side is chosen as the base, the area of the parallelogram is the product of that base and its corresponding height. We can check it:
4 × 6 = 24 4.8 × 5 = 24
We can see why this is true by decomposing and rearranging the parallelograms into rectangles.
Notice that the side lengths of each rectangle are the base and height of the parallelogram. Even though the two rectangles have different side lengths, the products of the side lengths are equal, so they have the same area! And both rectangles have the same area as the parallelogram.
We can use letters to stand for numbers. If b is base of a parallelogram (in units), and h is the corresponding height (in units), then the area of the parallelogram (in square units) is the product of these two numbers b·h.
Notice that the multiplication symbol can be written with a small dot instead of a × symbol. This is so that we don’t get confused about whether × means multiply, or whether the letter x is standing in for a number.
In high school, you will be able to prove that a perpendicular segment from a point on one side of a parallelogram to the opposite side will always have the same length. You can see this most easily when you draw a parallelogram on graph paper or look at the diagram below. For now, we will just use this as a fact.
Practice Problems
Figure A is correct.
Figure B is incorrect. The line labeled the height is the diagonal side, not a line perpendicular to the base.
Figure C is correct.
Figure D is correct. The height can be drawn outside the parallelogram as long as it is perpendicular to the base or an extension of the base.
A: 4 × 2 = 8 square units
B: 5 × 2 = 10 square units
C: 2 × 4 = 8 square units
A: 6 units
B: 4.8 units
C: 4 units
D: 5 units
C: 4 units. This is the only line that is perpendicular to the chosen base of 6 units.
If the side that was 5 units long was chosen as the base instead, the height would be 4.8 units.
A: 9 cm × 4 cm = 36 square cm
B: 5 cm × 4 cm = 20 square cm
C: b · h
A: A parallelogram has six sides.
B: Opposite sides of a parallelogram are parallel.
C: A parallelogram can have one pair or two pairs of parallel sides.
D: All sides of a parallelogram have the same length.
E: All angles of a parallelogram have the same measure.
A is false. A parallelogram has four sides.
B is true. C is false. A parallelogram has two pairs of parallel sides.
D is false. The opposite sides of a parallelogram have the same length.
E is false. The opposite angles of a parallelogram have the same measure.
A: What is the area, in square meters, of 6 triangles? If you get stuck, draw a diagram.
B: How many triangles are needed to compose a region that is 1½ square meters?
A: 6 triangles = 3 small squares = ⅓ of the original area. Hence, 6 triangles cover an area of ⅓ square meters.
B: Each triangle covers ^{1}⁄_{18} of the original area, or ^{1}⁄_{18} square meters. 1½ square meters ÷ ^{1}⁄_{18} square meters = 27 triangles.
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