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A middle-school classroom inquiry: estimating the height of a tree. (English)
Aust. Math. Teach. 67, No. 2, 14-21 (2011).
Summary: There is an old saying that "there is more than one way to skin a cat." Such is the case with finding the height of tall objects, a task that people have been approximating for centuries. Following an article in the "Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom" (APMC) with methods appropriate for primary students (Brown, Watson, Wright, \& Skalicky, 2011, see ME 05957922), this article presents two more methods that are appropriate for middle school students who are beginning to learn about the trigonometric functions. The purpose of this article, in conjunction with the APMC article (Brown et al., 2011), has been to motivate teachers to present their students with meaningful investigations that lead to an appreciation and understanding of a variety of ways to estimate the height of an object that cannot be measured directly. Each of Brown et al.’s primary school investigations, and the middle school investigations presented here, require students to use computational estimation. The activities suggested in this article are intended for use with middle school students and it is important to check that students have the necessary prerequisite skills. As well as being a hands-on activity for students, the methods used in these investigations have real-life relevance and are employed by architects, planners and surveyors who use the same principles to estimate the height of buildings, and/or land formations, often employing the use of a clinometer for accurate measurements. (Contains 9 figures.) (ERIC)
Classification: G63 F83