Approximating Pi

Opening with an engaging narrative about the history and idiosyncrasies of pi, this activity quickly gets young geometers involved in the action. They progress from thought experiments about inscribed and circumscribed polygons to developing concrete formulas that close in on that slippery irrational quantity. Step by step the author leads the learner not only through the calculations, but also the meaning and application of the math that is being performed. At the end, the class is left to come together for (presumably) a teacher-led recap and summative activity.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Great activity for small group work
  • Could be included as one of several different ways/historical methods of approximating pi in a larger application unit 
Classroom Considerations

  • Lesson assumes a high level of student dexterity with trigonometric ratios and notation in triangles

  • Clear and sequential steps lead learners through potentially complex steps with ease
  • Conversational tone and introduction written with the teen learner in mind

  • Worksheet ends with "the astute among you will notice that we have yet to use our formulas to approximate the value of pi. Just wait, we'll do that bit in class" but no instructions are provided for the teacher to do that.
  • No answer key provided
  • BC and BCE used interchangeably in introduction