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Conic Sections Activities

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Check out the engaging activities in this lesson, all of which can help your students learn more about conic sections. You'll find ideas for students to work collaboratively and deepen their understanding.

Activities and Learning

Meaningful activities encourage students to apply what they know in engaging ways. Your students will enjoy learning about conic sections and strengthen their skills. You'll give your students an opportunity to have fun while learning! Feel free to alter any of the ideas to better suit the needs of your students and your own teaching preferences.

Conic Sections Activities

Create Your Own

Materials for each pair

  • 4 coneshaped paper cups
    • Students could make their own using strong construction paper.
  • 4 pieces of white drawing paper or newsprint
  • 4 paper plates to put paint on
  • Paint - up to four colors
  • Scissors
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils
  • Resource on conic sections

Procedure

  • Students will work with a partner to investigate ways to create their own conic sections models.
  • Students must show each type of conic section: circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola.
  • Students will first cut their cones to resemble the conic sections. Try to let students explore as much as possible on their own. However, when needed provide the following hints:
    • Circle - Cut a horizontal line across the middle of the cone.
    • Ellipse - Cut this cone at a diagonal.
    • Parabola - Cut parallel to the slant of the outside edge (forming a U shape).
    • Hyperbola - Cut perpendicular to the base (forming a stretched-out U shape).
  • Once each cone is cut, students will dip the cut section of the cone into the paint. Then, they will dab the drawing paper with the cone.
  • Students will write a name and definition for each conic section. They will also determine and label the following: center, vertex, foci, directrix, and axis (axis of symmetry).
  • When finished, review conic sections and terms as a class.

Helping Each Other

Materials

  • Option 1 - Technology
    • Internet-enabled computers
    • Programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and/or Google Slides
    • Printers
    • Screen with projector for presentation
  • Option 2 - Without technology
    • Poster board
    • Markers, crayons, colored pencils
    • Grid paper
    • Rulers
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils
  • Resources on conic sections

Procedure

  • Divide students into at least four groups, with no more than five students in each group.
  • Each group will be assigned a specific conic section: circle, ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola. If you have more than four groups, some groups may have the same topic.
  • Students will become specialists in their assignment. They will be responsible for creating a mini lesson and presentation to teach the rest of their classmates about their conic section.
  • They must cover the following:
    • Name and definition of 'conic section'
    • Name and description of their specific conic section (circle, ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola)
    • Various examples of their conic section
    • Examples of formulas related to their conic section
    • A sample graph of their conic section
  • The presentation will share this information in a creative way. Groups may decide to use technology, no technology, or a combination of both.
  • Each group must also design one activity to go along with the mini lesson. Students could create a handout that matches definitions to terms, a graphing activity, formula problems to solve, or some other activity to get their classmates involved in 'doing' something.
  • Allow time for students to conduct their research, work on their presentation, and practice the presentation.
  • Schedule dates for groups to share their presentations.

Graph It

Materials for each pair

  • At least 10 sheets of grid paper
  • Different-colored pens or colored pencils
  • Prepare at least 10 different formulas that need to be solved and graphed
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils
  • Resource on solving and graphing equations for conic sections

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