An Activity for Pi Day

Pi Day (3/14) is fast approaching. Here’s a simple Geogebra activity you can do with your math students to help them get a sense of what pi is.

In Geogebra, construct a segment, then construct the midpoint. Construct a circle using the midpoint as center, and an endpoint of the segment as a point on the circle. In the Input pane, enter Circumference(<your circle>). When you divide the circumference measurement by the diameter length, you get pi! Geogebra is dynamic, so you can change the size of the circle, but the ratio will remain constant at pi.

Here’s an interactive version for you to play with at Geogebra’s site.

Here’s a screenshot:

All of my students have TI-84 graphing calculators, so I am going to have them use their Geogebra constructions to generate 10-12 different diameters and circumferences. Then we will enter the diameters in L1, the circumferences in L2, and plot the data. We will calculate the regression line, the slope of which should approximate pi.

Happy Pi Day!

Update: This went really well in my geometry class. Here’s the data we collected –


Here’s the regression line equation (check out the value of the slope):


And here is the plot of the data and the regression line:




Coding With Processing, Part 3

I just learned about for loops in Processing, and it occurred to me that they are perfect for illustrating iterated function systems. The classic example of an iterated function system is where you start with three vertices of a triangle, labeled 1, 2, and 3. Then perform the following steps:

  1. Plot a point (x0, y0) anywhere inside the triangle.
  2. Use a random number generator to generate 1, 2, or 3 randomly.
  3. If 1 comes up, plot the midpoint between vertex #1 and (x0, y0).
  4. If 2 comes up, plot the midpoint between vertex #2 and (x0, y0).
  5. If 3 comes up, plot the midpoint between vertex #3 and (x0, y0).
  6. Make your new point (x0, y0).
  7. Repeat the process.

Even though the locations of the points are being generated randomly, a very interesting picture emerges. Here is after 100 iterations:

And here is the result after 1000 iterations:

And here it is after 10,000. It’s pretty clear that we’re getting the Sierpinski Triangle!

Here’s the code:

float x1 = width/2;
float y1 = 0;
float x2 = 0;
float y2 = height;
float x3 = width;
float y3 = height;

float x0 = width/2;
float y0 = height/2;

size(600, 600);

for (int i = 1; i < 10000; i = i + 1) {
int roll = int (random(0, 4));
if (roll == 1) {
x0 = (x0 + x1)/2;
y0 = (y0 + y1)/2;
point(x0, y0);
} else if (roll == 2) {
x0 = (x0 + x2)/2;
y0 = (y0 + y2)/2;
point(x0, y0);
} else {
x0 = (x0 + x3)/2;
y0 = (y0 + y3)/2;
point(x0, y0);

The Wonderful World of Conics

My Algebra Two students are in the thick of learning about conics – parabolas, ellipses, circles, and hyperbolas. I’ve just finished recording a series of screencasts about them, and I am posting them below for your enjoyment.

Why are they called conics? Well, we can construct them using cones, as illustrated by this demo, courtesy of  Irina Boyadzhiev via GeogebraTube (I wish I could embed it, but WordPress won’t allow it):

Here are my screencasts:

Conic Basics

The Parabola

The Ellipse

The Hyperbola