The Buffon Needle Drop: a Math Activity for Pi Day


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Pi Approximation on a Grid : Image by Jose Kevo

Testing Buffon’s Needle

Toss each object onto the lined paper, preferably spinning it so the angle should change each time. Any object that lands completely outside the marked area is not counted and should be tossed again. (Would it have crossed the next parallel line?)

Keep count of “across” versus “within” for each set of tosses. Calculate the ratio for each set, but also for the overall experiment.

The Final Celebration for Pi Day

Traditionally the best way to celebrate the 14th of March is to share Pi Day pie, and some wear “pi T shirts” to make the festivities last all day. Other activities include simple rolling activities to calculate pi, and circular methods of pi calculation as well.

Resources and References for Pi Day and the Buffon Needle Drop

Bogomolny, A. and Brodie, Scott E. Buffon’s Needle Problem. Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles. (May 1999). Referenced February 14, 2013.
Weisstein, Eric W. Buffon’s Needle Problem. MathWorld-A Wolfram Web Resource. Referenced February 14, 2013.

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