Skip to main content
\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)
Mathematics LibreTexts

Chapter 11: Vectors and the Geometry of Space

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    • 11.1: Vectors in the Plane
      Some quantities, such as or force, are defined in terms of both size (also called magnitude) and direction. A quantity that has magnitude and direction is called a vector.
    • 11.2: Vectors in Space
      Vectors are useful tools for solving two-dimensional problems. Life, however, happens in three dimensions. To expand the use of vectors to more realistic applications, it is necessary to create a framework for describing three-dimensional space.
    • 11.3: The Dot Product
      The dot product essentially tells us how much of the force vector is applied in the direction of the motion vector. The dot product can also help us measure the angle formed by a pair of vectors and the position of a vector relative to the coordinate axes. It even provides a simple test to determine whether two vectors meet at a right angle.
    • 11.4: The Cross Product
      In this section, we develop an operation called the cross product, which allows us to find a vector orthogonal to two given vectors. Calculating torque is an important application of cross products, and we examine torque in more detail later in the section.
    • 11.5: Equations of Lines and Planes in Space
      To write an equation for a line, we must know two points on the line, or we must know the direction of the line and at least one point through which the line passes. In two dimensions, we use the concept of slope to describe the orientation, or direction, of a line. In three dimensions, we describe the direction of a line using a vector parallel to the line. In this section, we examine how to use equations to describe lines and planes in space.
    • 11.6: Quadric Surfaces
      We have been exploring vectors and vector operations in three-dimensional space, and we have developed equations to describe lines, planes, and spheres. In this section, we use our knowledge of planes and spheres, which are examples of three-dimensional figures called surfaces, to explore a variety of other surfaces that can be graphed in a three-dimensional coordinate system.
    • 11.7: Cylindrical and Spherical Coordinates
      The Cartesian coordinate system provides a straightforward way to describe the location of points in space. Some surfaces, however, can be difficult to model with equations based on the Cartesian system. As the name suggests, cylindrical coordinates are useful for dealing with problems involving cylinders. Similarly, spherical coordinates are useful for dealing with problems involving spheres.
    • Chapter 11 Review Exercises
      Exercises for self-study or review of Chapter 11.


    • Gilbert Strang (MIT) and Edwin “Jed” Herman (Harvey Mudd) with many contributing authors. This content by OpenStax is licensed with a CC-BY-SA-NC 4.0 license. Download for free at