Problem solved – when the flag on a World War II memorial was the wrong size, the solution was to have geometry students calculate proper flag size for the memorial. So it was a proud moment when geometry teacher Warren Tucker gathered his class in front of Hanover High School’s World War II memorial to witness the raising of a new American flag.

Geometry Students Calculate Proper Flag Size

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“I decided to challenge the math department to determine how big the flag should be, and I told them I would pay to replace it when they did,” Lynne Stahler, a member of the Friends of Hanover-Norwich Schools. “For years, I’ve thought that the flag at the school was too small.”

Tucker teaches practical geometry at Hanover High School, and he saw this project as an opportunity to demonstrate to his students a real-life application of math. Although it was easy enough to measure the height of the flagpole’s base — a concrete World War II memorial — measuring the flagpole itself was difficult because of its height. So Tucker and his students figured out a solution.

“We couldn’t measure the pole, but we could measure the length of its shadow,” Rose Lippman, a 16-year-old Hanover High sophomore, said. “We also measured the height of a person and the length of their shadow.”

Geometry Students Calculate Proper Flag Size

Click image to purchase book

Measuring a person’s height and shadow, and connecting the two lines, creates a triangle. Since the students also had the measurement of the flagpole’s shadow, they could create a “similar triangle” by using ratio and proportion to find out the height of the flagpole, which turned out to be about 50-feet tall, including the memorial’s base.

“Comparing the two triangles got us a surprisingly accurate number,” Lippman said.

Once the class knew the height of the flagpole, they went online to figure out the correct size for the flag.

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