Parametric Equations

Graphing parametric equations on the Desmos Graphing Calculator, Geometry Tool, or the 3D Calculator Instead of numerical coordinates, use expressions in terms of the special parameter $$t$$, like (cos $$t$$, sin$$t$$). In the 3D Calculator, you can also use expressions in terms of the parameters $$u$$ and $$v$$ like (cos$$u$$, sin$$v$$, $$u$$).

Get started exploring parametrics with the video on the right, then dive deeper with the resources below.

Getting Started

To graph a parametric curve, simply create an ordered pair where one or both coordinates are defined in terms of the parameter $$t$$.

By default, parametric curves are plotted for values of $$t$$ in the interval $$[0, 1]$$. However, you can manually adjust the domain using the inputs provided beneath the expression.

Just like other expressions, you can use dynamic variables in parametric equations, including in the bounds for the interval of $$t$$.

Parametric Curves

Parametric curves can be represented in a single coordinate expression or can reference other defined component functions using the parameter $$t$$.

Note: In Desmos, since lowercase $$x$$ and $$y$$ are reserved variables, you must use uppercase $$X$$ and $$Y$$ if you want to define functions for $$x$$ and $$y$$.

It is also possible to fill a parametric curve by long-pressing the icon to the left of your expression which opens the options menu. From there, you can toggle on the Fill option to visualize the area enclosed by the parametric curve.

Note that when computing parametric fill in Desmos, a curve's interior is determined according to the non-zero winding rule. To explore this concept further, you can open any example in the article by clicking on the image.

Parametrics in 3D

Graph a parametric surface in 3D with the parameters $$u$$ and $$v$$.

Consider the parametric surface $$(u, f(u)cosv, f(u)sinv)$$ where the parameter $$u$$ represents the $$x$$-values,and $$v$$ represents the angle of rotation. This formula rotates any function $$f(x)$$ around the $$x$$-axis.

For instance, try rotating $$f(x) = \sqrt(x)$$ with this parametric surface. Adjust the inputs beneath the expression to $$0 \le u \le 5$$ and $$0 \le v \le 2\pi$$. To connect this rotation to a slider, create a slider $$b$$ from $$0$$ to $$2\pi$$ and adjust the input for $$v$$ to $$0 \le v \le b$$.