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The familiar formula for vol of a right circular cone V= (1/3) pi,r.r.h where r is the radius and h the height is often stated and used without deriving the formula.In advanced classes, a derivation is possible using integral calculus, not taught in middle or most high school classes.This formula can be 'derived' using a numerical method ,a s given in this article that can be understood easily by school students.This method also illustrated the approach of numerical method or analysis studied in college courses. I have given both rectangular formula and the midpoint method. The cone is sliced into discs and the volumes of discs added. Then the radius of each disc is approximated.The error analysis while doing a numerical scheme is explained.Some exercises are given as part of this tutorial.

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You are on page 1of 8

OF A CONE-SIMPLE DERIVATION

without using calculus

SRINIVASAN NENMELI

Introdcution

This article is an easy tutorial for middle and high

school students to arrive at the formula for

"volume of a right circular cone " V = (1/3) r2 h

where r is the radius and h, the height

without using the method of calculus of integration.

I am presenting a simple "numerical method" or numerical

approximation to get this formula.

By following this method, you will also learn about

numerical approach to such problems ,under the title

"numerical analysis." This method can be easily extended

for volume of a square pyramid and volume of a rerular

tetrahedron and other geometric figures.

The Approach

Consider a cone placed on a table with flat

slice the cone into discs of certain height from

the bottom. Let r be the radius of the cone.and

h be the height.

Each disc is approximated to be a cylinder with

radius r' and height (h/n) where n is the no of

discs we have created by slicing.

For simplicity, we start with n=10 or ten slices

being made.The height of each disc is h/10.

Now the lateral side of the disc is sloping, but

we make the simplification that it is vertical

and therefore each disc is a cylinder;

Then the total volume of the cone is the sum of

the volumes of ten cylindrical discs.

Method 1

The volume of the disc is just (r')2 h'.

We can take the radius r' for each disc as

follows:

r, 0.9r, 0.8 r ------0.1r

h'= h/10

Then the volume of the cone:

V = (pi) (h/10)r2 [1 + 0.9x0.9 + 0.8 x 0.8 +

..........0.1 x0.1] -------------------(1)

If we do the simple computation involved for the

terms inside the brackets , we get:

V = (h/10) r2 [3.85]

= 0.385 r2 h ------------(2)

Note that V= 0.3333 r2 h -----------(3)

Our result is pretty close to the expected

formula, but not close enough.

Method 2

One 'obvious'technique to improve the accuracy

of the result would be to increase the number of

discs from 10 to 20 ; then each disc would be of

height h/20 and the error in calculating the

derive with 20 discs as before, as an exercise.

The result would be ': V = 0.3587 r2 h.

This result is close to the actual one with

0.358 replacing (1/3) or 0.3333. The error is:

[0.358-0.333]/0.333=0.025/0.333= 7.5%

I am not satisfied by this level of

approximation!

Method 3 Midpoint method

Since each disc has a sloping side, the better

method is to take the middle value of the radius

for each disc. For the first disc,r' varies from

r to 0.9r. therefore let us take r' = 0.95 r,

instead of r. For the second disc, r'= 0.85 r,

instead of 0.9 r and so on.

Therefore, V= r2 (h/10)[0.952 + 0.852 +

0.752

V = r2 ( h /10) [3.325]

This result is excellent: V = 0.3325 r2 h

----------(4)

The midpoint method gives a value of 0.3325,

close to 0.33333 or 1/3 found in the formula.

The error is 0.0008/0.3333= 0.0024 or 0.24%!!

[The midpoint method is similar to midpoint

formula used in 'numerical integration'

originally given by John G Kemeny [ Former Prof

of Math and President of Dartmouth College.]

Exercises

1Repeat the midpoint method using 20 discs

instead of 10.

2 Write a computer program for this method with

no of discs as a variable.Run the program with

--------------------------------------------

How did the Greek mathematicians find this

formula? It is a moot point whether they used a

numerical approximation as given above.

Archimedes did a numerical procedure to find a

value of pi by approximating a circle to

several triangles. So, it is possible that some

Greek mathematician cranked out a numerical

scheme like the one given here.

Hey! Most probably they found the volume of a

cone by by filling a model cone with water and

then measuring the volume of water with a

measuring jar or cylinder!

Volume of a square pyramid

The volume of a square pyramid:

V = (1/3)a2 h

height.

As before, let us slice the pyramid into 10

slabs of height h/10.

Each slab has a square top and bottom side with

sloping sides.

The side of the slabs are a,0.9a, 0.8a and so

on.

The area of each slab is taken at the midpoint:

a'=0.95a

Therefore, as before,

V = a2 (h/10) [0.952 +0.852 ------ 0.052 ]

The terms within the bracket are the same as

before and adds upto 3.325.

Therefore V = (1/3)a2 h.

Volume of a regular tetrahedron can also be

derived using the method 3 as V =(1/3) Ah

[base]A= sqrt(3)/4 a2 where a is the side of the

tetrahedron.

Therefore we have shown how the number (1/3)

arises in the formulas of volume of all these

solids by the same method.

--------------------------------------

The purpose of this article was to derive the

the formula using a numerical method without

resorting to integral calculus. At the same

time, it could be instructive to a school

student to learn about the numerical method

which he/she would be using in advance

mathematics.

Contact: nenmelisrinivasan@gmail.com

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