Derivation of the Area of a Trapezoid

A trapezoid (or trapezoid) is a quadrilateral with exactly one pair* of parallel sides. In the figure below, ABCD is a trapezoid and AB is parallel to CD.

area of a trapezoid

In this post, we derive the area of a trapezoid. We use the fact that a trapezoid can be partitioned into two triangles and one rectangle. The area $latex A$ of a trapezoid is equal to the sum of the areas $latex A_1, A_3$ of the two triangles and the area $latex A_2$ of the rectangle.

area of a trapezoid2

Observe that $latex A_1 = (ah)/2$, $latex A_2 = b_1h$, and $latex A_3 = (ch)/2$.

We know that

area of trapezoid  = area of triangle 1 + area of rectangle + area of triangle 2.

which means that $latex A = A_1 + A_2 + A_3$.

Substituting the values we have

$latex \displaystyle \frac{ah}{2} + bh + \frac{ch}{2} =\displaystyle \frac{ah + 2b_1h + ch}{2}$.

Simplifying the equation, rearranging the terms, and factoring result to

$latex A = \displaystyle\frac{h}{2} [b_1 + (a + b_1 + h)]$.

If we let the longer base of the trapezoid be $latex b_2$, then, $latex b_2 = a + b_1 + h$. Substituting we have

$latex A =\displaystyle \frac{h}{2}\left ( b_1 + b_2 \right )$.

Therefore the area of a trapezoid $latex A$ with base $latex b_1$ and $latex b_2$ and altitude $latex h$ is

$latex A = \displaystyle \frac{h}{2} \left ( b_1 + b_2 \right )$


*Other books define trapezoid as a quadrilateral with at least 1 pair of parallel sides.

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