Slope

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Through differential calculus, one can calculate the slope of the tangent line to a curve at a point.

The concept of slope applies directly to grades or gradients in geography and civil engineering. Through trigonometry, the grade m of a road is related to its angle of incline θ by

Contents

Definition

The slope of a line in the plane containing the x and y axes is generally represented by the letter m, and is defined as the change in the y coordinate divided by the corresponding change in the x coordinate, between two distinct points on the line. This is described by the following equation:

(The delta symbol, "Δ", is commonly used in mathematics to mean "difference" or "change".)

Given two points (x1,y1) and (x2,y2), the cha The slope is \textstyle\frac{1}{2} = 0.5\,.

As another example, consider a line which runs through the points (4, 15) and (3, 21). Then, the slope of the line is

Geometry

The larger the absolute value of a slope, the steeper the line. A horizontal line has slope 0, a 45° rising line has a slope of +1, and a 45° falling line has a slope of −1. A vertical line's slope is undefined meaning it has "no slope."

The angle θ a line makes with the positive x axis is closely related to the slope m via the tangent function:

and

(see trigonometry).

Two lines are parallel if and only if their slopes are equal and they are not coincident or if they both are vertical and therefore have undefined slopes. Two lines are perpendicular if the product of their slopes is −1 or one has a slope of 0 (a horizontal line) and the other has an undefined slope (a vertical line). Also, another way to determine a perpendicular line is to find the slope of one line and then to get its reciprocal and then reversing its positive or negative sign (e.g. a line perpendicular to a line of slope  −2 is +1/2).

Slope of a road or railway

There are two common ways to describe how steep a road or railroad is. One is by the angle in degrees, and the other is by the slope in a percentage. See also mountain railway and rack railway. The formulae for converting a slope as a percentage into an angle in degrees and vice versa are:

and

where angle is in degrees and the trigonometric functions operate in degrees. For example, a 100% or 1000 slope is 45°.

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