Task of the Week: Serpent Surface
Today’s “Task of the Week” leads to Lyon, France, included in the trail “IFE”. It deals with an area calculation of a particular kind and shows in an exciting way which varied mathematical ideas are in everyday objects.
Task: Serpent Surface (task number: 1129)
The metal railing of the fire stairs is in the form of a serpent line. Calculate the surface area in m².
Before the students can begin to solve the problem, preliminary considerations are necessary, e.g. whether the slope of the railing is relevant or which formulas can be used to determine the length of the railing. The pupils should recognize the course of the serpent line as circular. In the case of two rotations of the staircase, the length of the railing corresponds to the double circumference of the circle with the step length as radius. With help of the circumference and height of the railing, the surface area of the serpent surface can be determined.
This is a geometric problem which combines the subcategories “space and form” and “measuring” by recognizing geometric structures in the environment as well as measuring the sizes and using them for calculations. The task is assigned in particular to the theme “circle” and can thus be used with treatment of the formula for the circle circumference from class 8 onwards.
In addition, the task shows that many objects can motivate a wide range of questions. Besides the question of the surface area, it would for example be possible to calculate the slope of the railing.