## Surface Area of a Cylinder Song

Sunday, May 1st, 2011Here’s a fun way to remember the formula for surface area of a cylinder—singing these lyrics set to the tune of Camptown Races (in the style of Foghorn Leghorn):

2 times pi times r times h; that’s the middle.

2 times pi times r times r; top and bottom, too.

Surface area!

Of a cylinder! It’s

2 times pi times r times h plus two times pi times r times r.

If you’re not sure about how to fit the lyrics with the Camptown Races melody, just listen to the intro of this sweet rendition on YouTube:

With this handy mneumonic device stuck in my head, I feel the urge to belt “Surface areAAAA! Of a cylinDERRRR!” while walking around my neighborhood and puttering around my kitchen!

Many thanks to Becky Brickell for sharing this great idea on the Texas Instruments Classroom Activities website!

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Mneumonic devices are great! Geometry can be tricky and this is certainly helpful. Thanks for sharing!

I’m always wary of such approaches, because a student who needs such a device necessarily doesn’t understand the notion of surface area (or else of a cylinder). A student who understands the concepts will see two circles and a rectangle (an unfolded cylinder). And, I always strive for understanding, not mere memorization!

Now, that being said, there are times when I do think mnemonics are useful. For instance, the old standby “SOHCAHTOA”… There is no way but memorization to know which two sides of a triangle correspond to the sine function, because names are arbitrary. You can’t reason your way into understanding that “sine” refers to “opposite over hypotenuse” (or, the y-component of a point on the unit circle, or whatever interpretation you want to give).

For more on this, you might see Hewitt, D. (1999). “Arbitrary and necessary part 1: A way of viewing the mathematics curriculum.” For the Learning of Mathematics 19(3), p. 2-9.

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ607163&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ607163

Thanks for your thoughts. I actually came across this song while working with a student who told me over and over that she really, really, really wanted to know the formula, so I was seeking out resources to help her remember it. 🙂 It was something we explored in conjunction with the concept — taking a cylinder, imagining peeling off the circles that make the top and the bottom, and peeling off the middle that is a rectangle, and what they would look like smushed flat instead of three-dimensional.

This is a great way for kids to remember the formula for the surface area of a cylinder! I wish I had this in school. It would have made things a little simpler. Thanks for sharing!

You’re welcome! I’m glad you like it, and I was so happy to find it too.

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