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A peel ing

SPHERES

Common Core State


Standards for Mathematics*

Surface Area of a Sphere


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.

Make sense of problems and persevere in


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)

A sphere, like its two-dimensional relative


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

Before You Begin

Oranges or grapefruits (see Before You Begin 1)

1. Each student pair or group will need an


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.

2. Calculate the surface area of your


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

2. Invite students to compare their fruits


to yours.

How do the sizes and shapes compare?


Estimate the surface area of your fruit.
Record the estimation on the student page.

3. Cut your demonstration fruit in half. Show


the students the cross-section.

What is the circle vocabulary that


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.)

4. Explain that each group will explore a


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.

How many of these great circles do you think


you could fill with the peels of your fruit?
Record your prediction on the student page.

6. Distribute paper. Have students draw as


many great circles as they think they need,
plus a few morejust in case.
2012 AIMS Education Foundation

7. Direct students to begin to peel the fruit by


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.

How many total great circles did your peels


fill? If you filled a fraction of a great circle,
simply round to the nearest circle. Record
your findings on the student page.

8. Collect the results from each group and


display them for the class.

What do you notice about these results?


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.)

9. Have students make a conjecture about


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.

10. Ask students to look at their previous


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.

2012 AIMS Education Foundation

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SPHERES

Estimate the surface area of your fruit:


Record any important vocabulary in
the table.

Vocabulary
Word

What does
it mean?

How does it relate


to my fruit?

Predict how many great circles your


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?

2012 AIMS Education Foundation

A peel ing
CON
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SPHERES

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Ask These

T I NG
AR
LE

NI

1. Why is the radius of the great circle the same


as that of your sphere?

2. Why might some groups have filled three or five great


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?

2012 AIMS Education Foundation