Name ______________________ Calculus

Date ____________

Limits and Infinity, oh my! (Part 1)

First, close your eyes and take yourself back in time … before the age of Google, and before the age when math students simply memorized formulas. In fact, take yourself way back to Ancient Greece. Are you there yet? Once you are, you’re going to take on the following challenge: How could you figure out the area of a circle with radius 1? Think about it … finding the area of a curved shape isn’t so easy! Rulers aren’t especially helpful. The Greeks spent a long time working on this method is inspired by their work.

Step 1
Suppose the radius of the circle is 1. Also suppose that all inscribed polygons are “regular” (meaning that every side has the same length). Let An be the area of the inscribed polygon with n sides. Fill in the chart that follows and show all your calculations on a separate sheet of paper. (Hint: cut each shape into lots of triangles and use your old friend SOH-CAH-TOA.)

A3 A3




Area (rounded to 5 decimal places)


A5 A6 A10 A100 A1000 A10000 A100000
Yes, this would be the area of a polygon with 100,000 sides. Good thing you don’t have to be able to draw it in order to calculate it!

Challenge: Can you find a general formula for An ?

Step 2
So, instead of finding the area of the circle directly, the Greeks found the area of different shapes (“regular polygons”) that fit inside the circle. The trick was, these different shapes got bigger and bigger so that their areas would eventually “approach” the area of the circle. What number do the areas seem to be approaching? _______ Are you surprised? _____________ In math-speak,

This is read as “The limit of An as n approaches infinity is _______.” Step 3: Summarize, in a way your little cousin would understand, how you could derive (figure out) the area of a circle without using a formula.