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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.
 Under 5 minutes
 10 to 30 minutes
 $1  $5 per group of students
 Ages 14  18
 Activity
 English
Quick Guide
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
 Representation

Algebra

The Nature of Technology

The Design Process
 Problem Solving

The Design Process

The Nature of Science

The Scientific Process
 Conducting Investigations
 Gathering Data
 Formulating Explanations
 Communicating Results

The Scientific Process
Audience
To use this activity, learners need to:
 see
 touch
Learning styles supported:
 Involves handson 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