How Do You Calculate the Miles Between Two Points?


Quick Answer

A variety of electronic map tools can be used to calculate the number of miles between any two points on a map. The Pythagorean theorem can also be used if the component distances have been determined.

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How Do You Calculate the Miles Between Two Points?
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Full Answer

Distance calculators can be found on many online map tools and a variety of smartphone applications. To find the distance between any two points using one of these electronic tools, enter the address or intersection for each of the points and select the mode of transportation. Often, a tool that gives directions does not calculate the distance using a straight line, instead measuring the distance required to travel between two points on public roads.

To calculate distance using the Pythagorean theorem, find the longitude and latitude coordinates or intersections on a grid. This will indicate how far apart points are laterally and vertically. These distances can be converted to miles using online tools or a map key. The Pythagorean theorem states that a squared plus b squared equals c squared, where a and b are legs of a right triangle and c is the hypotenuse. This means that the sum of the squares of the vertical and lateral distances is the square of the total distance. Longitude distances taper as they get closer to the poles, so this method cannot be used for distances that are too far north or south or are too far apart.

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