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You are on page 1of 4

SPHERES

Standards for Mathematics*

Students will discover the formula for

calculating the surface area of a sphere and

will use their findings to verify their estimation

of the surface area of an orange or grapefruit.

solving them. (MP.1)

Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (MP.2)

Construct viable arguments and critique the

reasoning of others. (MP.3)

Model with mathematics. (MP.4)

Attend to precision. (MP.6)

Look for and make use of structure. (MP.7)

Know the formulas for the volumes of cones,

cylinders, and spheres and use them to solve

real-world and mathematical problems.

(8.G.C)

the circle, is defined as the set of given points

that are the same distance (r) from a given

point in space (the center). The sphere just

happens to be set in three-dimensional space

rather than the circles two-dimensional plane. It

is interesting, then, that while the area formula

for a circle is r2, the surface area formula for a

sphere is exactly four times the area of a circle

with radius r.

This lesson invites students to make

estimations and discoveries that help them

connect what they already know about circles

with this fascinating formula: surface area of a

sphere = 4r2.

You Need

orange or grapefruit. You will also need one

for demonstration purposes.

Metric rulers

Paper towels

Plastic serrated knife

Student page

Paper

Background Information

One of the interesting features of a spheres

is that, unlike its three-dimensional friends the

cone and cylinder, it does not have faces and

so it cannot be unfolded into a flat net. This

presents a challenge for students understanding

conceptually why the surface area is always 4r2.

orange or grapefruit. Use metric rulers to

determine square centimeters.

3. Use a plastic serrated knife to cut the fruit

in half when appropriate in the activity.

Do This

1. Show students your fruit and tell them

that you have figured out the surface area

of the sphere. Tell them the surface area,

including the units; discuss surface area

definitions and units if needed.

1

to yours.

Estimate the surface area of your fruit.

Record the estimation on the student page.

the students the cross-section.

names this cross-section? [Great circle

of a sphere.] What part of the orange

represents the radius? the surface area?

the hemisphere? Record any important

vocabulary on the student page. (At

this point, it is important that students

understand that the radius of the great

circle is also the radius of the sphere.)

method for finding the surface area of a

sphere then use their findings to check

their fruit surface area estimate.

5. Inform students that the method they will

explore involves drawing the great circle of

their sphere by placing the fruit on a piece

of paper, holding a pencil perpendicular

along the edge of the fruit, and tracing

around it.

you could fill with the peels of your fruit?

Record your prediction on the student page.

many great circles as they think they need,

plus a few morejust in case.

2012 AIMS Education Foundation

tearing small nickel-sized pieces. As they

tear the pieces, tell them to place them

within the great circles they drew, being

careful to fill the circles completely without

overlaps or gaps. Once one great circle is

filled, have them begin filling the next great

circle.

fill? If you filled a fraction of a great circle,

simply round to the nearest circle. Record

your findings on the student page.

display them for the class.

Why did groups have similar results even

though the sizes of the oranges differed?

(The result should be close to four great

circles filled. Some groups may have

one more or one less. This presents an

opportunity to discuss result variations.)

a formula for the surface area of a sphere

using the information from the great circles

they filled. If needed, ask students to

remind each other how to find the area of a

circle. They may record their conjecture on

the student page. Discuss conjectures as

a class.

Ask These

1. Why is the radius of the great circle the

same as that of your sphere? [The great

circle is the plane of the sphere that passes

through the center of the sphere. The radius

is the line segment from the center of the

circle or sphere to its perimeter.]

2. Why might some groups have filled three

or five great circles instead of four? [Some

pieces of the peel may have overlapped,

making fewer than four filled great circles, or

there may have been gaps between pieces

of peel to make greater than four filled great

circles.]

3. Why did groups fill approximately the same

number of great circles even through their

fruits were different sizes? [The proportion

of the area of the great circle and the

surface area of the sphere remains the same

whether the fruit is big or small.]

4. Do you think your formula would calculate

the surface area of any sphere? Why or

why not?

* Copyright 2010. National Governors Association

Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State

School Officers. All rights reserved.

estimation of the surface area of their fruit.

Have them calculate the actual surface

area of their fruit using a ruler and the

surface area formula.

A peel ing

1

2

3

4

5

SPHERES

Record any important vocabulary in

the table.

Vocabulary

Word

What does

it mean?

to my fruit?

peels will fill: ________

Approximately how many great circles

did your peels actually fill?

Using what youve learned, write the

formula for the surface area of a sphere

and explain in words what it means.

Surface area of a sphere = ___________

Use this formula to calculate the surface area of your fruit. How does it compare to your original estimation?

A peel ing

CON

N

SPHERES

EC

Ask These

T I NG

AR

LE

NI

as that of your sphere?

circles instead of four?

3. Why did groups fill approximately the same number of

great circles even through their fruits were different sizes?

4. Do you think your formula would calculate the surface

area of any sphere? Why or why not?

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