Major & Minor Arcs of a Circle

Instructor: Mark Boster
When people draw pictures, they use all different shapes and designs. Some people may use squares, triangles or circles. However some people use arcs. In this lesson, you will learn about the two types of arcs - major and minor.

Hamster Wheel

Joe's hamster, Todd, liked to run in his hamster wheel. Sometimes Todd would run and then stop and let the wheel carry him for a while. Sometimes, after Todd stopped running, the wheel would go all the way around with him still on it! Sometimes Todd's wheel would take him most of the way around, but other times it would only move a little. Little did Todd know, he was showing Joe major and minor arcs.


Just like Todd's hamster wheel, a circle is round too. The distance around a circle is the circumference. When you draw a circle and remove part of the circumference, what you have left is an arc. An arc is part of the circumference of a circle.

Try this; draw a circle and erase part of the circumference. You can erase as much or a little as you want to. What you have left is an arc.

Part of the Circumference of a Circle is Called an Arc

More About Arcs

When you drew the circle and erased part of it, your arc may have been large, like the one shown, or smaller, but as long as you erased part of the circumference, you made an arc! But what kind of arc did you make?

There are two kinds of arcs - major arcs and minor arcs. If something is major, it means it is big. To help you remember that, a major is a big and important person in the Army. Hopefully that makes it easy for you to remember that a major arc is an arc that is half a circle or more. That would be the biggest part. If you used a protractor to measure it, then it would be 180° or more.

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