If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Introduction to the coordinate plane

When we use coordinates to locate a point on a coordinate plane, we use two numbers to specify the horizontal (x) and vertical (y) positions. The first number in a coordinate pair tells us how far to move left or right from the origin, while the second number tells us how far to move up or down.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [Instructor] You're probably familiar with the notion of a number line where we can take a number and associate it with a point on the number line. So for example, the number two, I would go, I would start at zero, I'd go one, two to the right, and I would end up right over there. What we're going to do in this video is think about how do we take two numbers and associate them with a point on a plane like this. So for example, you might have the two numbers three, comma five. How can these two numbers be represented as a point on the plane, or how can these tell you where a point on the plane is? So let's first get a little bit of terminology out of the way. So what we have here, this is often known as our coordinate plane. These two numbers you could view as our coordinates. Let me write this down. These are coordinates. These black lines are known as the axes. Each one is an axis and the one that goes left right here, this is known as the X axis, or it's typically known as the X axis. In the future it might be called other things, and the one that goes up down in the vertical direction, this is typically known as the Y axis. As you go further in math we might call it other things, but most of the time it's going to be called the Y axis. So how does three comma five, how do these coordinates specify a point on this plane? Well the way that we typically work it through, the standard way that people will interpret these points, it'll say all right, this first coordinate, this is our X coordinate. This is our X coordinate. You can view it as how far do we move to the right along the X axis. So what you would do is you'd say all right I'm gonna start right here where my axes intersect and I'm gonna go three to the right. One, two, three. So my X coordinate says, all right my point is going to be this far to the right. This far to the right. So it's gonna be somewhere on this vertical line. This dotted line that I'm showing. Everything on this vertical line has an X coordinate of three. Now what's the Y coordinate? Another way I should say it, the second number right over here. This is the Y coordinate. Y coordinate. This tells us how far do we move up. So one way to think about it, you could start back where the axes intersect. This point is actually called the origin. Let me write that down. That is the origin, and so starting at the origin, move five up. One, two, three, four, five. So everything on this horizontal line that I'm drawing has a Y coordinate of five. So what point uniquely has both an X coordinate of three and a Y coordinate of five? Well you can see where those two lines intersect, right over here. Actually let me do that same blue color that I wrote the coordinates in. So this point right over here, it has an X coordinate of three, and it has a Y coordinate of five. That is the point three comma five. Now what is the coordinate of the origin? Well the origin is zero to the right of the origin and it's also zero above the origin. So the coordinates there, the X coordinate is zero, the Y coordinate is also zero. Let's do a few more examples. So let's say that I wanted to plot the point two comma five. Why don't you pause this. Oh let me use a different number. Two comma four. Why don't you pause this video and think about where that point would be on this coordinate plane. All right let's do it together. So the first number is going to be our X coordinate. It tells us how far do we move to the right. So we move two to the right, and then our second number says how far do we move up. So first we're gonna move two to the right and then we are going to move four up. So you can say one two to the right and then one two three four right over there. This right over here is the point two comma four. Notice is X coordinate. How far to the right of the origin it is. That is two and its Y coordinate, how far above the origin is. That is four. Now let's go the other way around. Let's say that I were to give you, if I were to give you this point right over here. What would its coordinates be? Pause the video and try to figure that out. All right, well we know it's gonna be two numbers. So I'll do something comma something. Now the first something, that's going to be our X coordinate. You could think of it, what point on the X axis are we above? You could think about how far to the right of the origin we are, and you can see that your X coordinate right over here is if we just drop a vertical line straight down from that point it hits the X axis at four. So that is four. Another way to think about it we're one two three four to the right of the Y axis. Now how high are we? How high above the X axis are we? Well we're one above the X asis. So this is gonna be four comma one. Another way to think about it, if you just take a line and you go straight to the left you're going to hit the Y axis at the one right over here. So the coordinates here are four comma one. Now just so we don't get confused, and when you first learn this, the main point of confusion is remembering that okay the first number is the X coordinate, the second number is the Y coordinate. One comma four would be a different point. One comma four would be okay one in the X direction and then four in the Y direction. So this is one comma four over here. So it's very important to realize that the standard way of interpreting these numbers is that the first one says how far do you move to the right of the origin, or how far do you move along the X axis or where are you on the X axis, and the second number is how far do you move in the vertical direction, or where are you relative to the Y, or where are you in the vertical direction?