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Throwing Pi


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    The Exploratorium

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Throwing Pi

In this calculus activity, learners use a classic problem of geometrical probability to find an important mathematical constant (pi). Learners explore Buffon’s needle problem (which asks the probability of a needle hitting a line if it is thrown at a group of evenly spaced parallel lines) by physically throwing toothpicks and graphing the results.

Quick Guide


Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Type:
Activity

Language:
English

Materials List (per group of students)


  • toothpicks of the same size
  • paper
  • ruler (optional)
  • protractor (optional)
  • graph paper (optional)

Subjects


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Number and Operations
      • Fractions
      • Operations
    • Problem Solving
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Audience


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Other


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access

By:

  • Yu, Julie

Rights:

  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2009

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610238
  • National Science Foundation, 0925383

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