Eratosthenes and the Circumference of the Earth

This Eratosthenes and the Circumference of the Earth activity & project also includes:

The class gets to practice being a mathematician in ancient Greece, performing geometric application problems in the way of Eratosthenes. After following the steps of the great mathematicians, they then compare the (surprisingly accurate) ancient findings to modern calculations. Teacher notes suggest extensions and offer historical context to round out this fun activity.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas

  • Includes an extension to collaborate with a distant classroom to recreate Eratosthenes' experiment
  • Modify and perform similar calculations for other planets in the solar system
  • Link with a history or language arts unit on the people of ancient Greece
Classroom Considerations

  • More persistent learners might need convincing that some of the assumptions regarding Earth's curvature and parallel sun rays are valid
  • Part c will reveal weaknesses in unit conversions so having remediation handy would speed up that process
Pros

  • Great historical perspective for the importance of geometric methods
  • Natural application of trigonometric ratios, unit conversions, and the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Extension opportunities for hands-on geometric practice
Cons

  • Student worksheet is not separated from teaching resources
  • Further application ideas are emphasized, but not fleshed out or fully developed