What is the golden ratio?


Many people call it the divine proportion, but what is the golden ratio exactly known to the pythagoreans in 500 B.C.?

To warm up, we will try to construct an equiangular spiral. Here is how:

Draw a 1-unit square. Then draw another 1-unit square next to the first

Attach a 2-unit square( sum of the two previous side lengths) along a matching side length

Attach a 3-unit square( sum of the two previous side lengths) along a matching side length

Attach a 5-unit square( sum of the two previous side lengths) along a matching side length

Finally, using the side length of each square as the radius, draw a quarter-circle arc in each square.All arcs should be connected

So far, you should get something that looks like this:


Equiangular spiral


Feel free to continue adding squares to the guide.

If you do, the square should have the following side lengths: 8, 13, 21, .....

The lengths of all squares is a Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...etc, ...

If the quotient of each consecutive pair of numbers is formed ( for example, 1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 8/5, 13/8, ...) the numbers produce a new sequence.

The first several terms of this new sequence are 1, 2, 1.5, 1.66..., 1.6, 1.625, 1.61538, ...

If we continue in this pattern, we will approach the decimal number 1.61803

This number can also be written as (1 + √5)/2 and it is called the golden ratio


Proof of the golden ratio

To prove that the golden ratio really approaches (1 + √5)/2, we can pull out the two 1-unit squares and the 2-unit square as shown below:

Squares from spiral


The rectangle above is called a golden rectangle. Call the side length of the 1-unit square b and the side length of the 2-unit square a

At this point, what is the golden ratio if not a pain in the neck?

In a golden rectangle, we can identify two rectangles that are similar.

A big rectangle with sides a + b and a and a small rectangle with sides b and a

If we separate the small rectangle from the bigger and rotate the big rectangle 90 degrees counterclockwise, we can easily see which sides are similar


Setting up a proportion, we get: (a + b)/a = a/b

Cross multiply to get a2 = b (a + b)

a2 = ba + b2

a2 − ba − b2 = 0

Using the quadratic formula,

√(b2 − 4 × a × c)= √(((-b)2 − 4 × 1 ×(-b2))) = √(b2 + 4 b2) =√( 5 b2) = √(5)b

Therefore, a = (- -b + √(5)b)/2

a = (b + √(5)b)/2

a = b ( 1 + √(5))/2

Dividing both sides by b, we get, a/b = ( 1 + √(5))/2

Therefore, what is the golden ratio? It is not just the fascinating formula you see right above, it is also something the pythagoreans came up with to make you spend your entire day thinking about it.




Recent Articles

  1. How to Derive the Equation of an Ellipse Centered at the Origin

    Mar 13, 19 11:50 AM

    Learn how to derive the equation of an ellipse when the center of the ellipse is at the origin.

    Read More

New math lessons

Your email is safe with us. We will only use it to inform you about new math lessons.

            Follow me on Pinterest


Math quizzes

 Recommended

Scientific Notation Quiz

Graphing Slope Quiz

Adding and Subtracting Matrices Quiz  

Factoring Trinomials Quiz 

Solving Absolute Value Equations Quiz  

Order of Operations Quiz

Types of angles quiz


Tough algebra word problems

Tough Algebra Word Problems.

If you can solve these problems with no help, you must be a genius!

Recent Articles

  1. How to Derive the Equation of an Ellipse Centered at the Origin

    Mar 13, 19 11:50 AM

    Learn how to derive the equation of an ellipse when the center of the ellipse is at the origin.

    Read More

K-12 math tests


Everything you need to prepare for an important exam!

K-12 tests, GED math test, basic math tests, geometry tests, algebra tests. 

Real Life Math Skills

Learn about investing money, budgeting your money, paying taxes, mortgage loans, and even the math involved in playing baseball.