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Circle Divisions by Lines


In class worksheet 3/1/19

Problems
1. Lets start with thinking about a circle with 1 cut.

a) How many pieces can you make?


b) Now consider 2? Can you find a minimum? A maximum?
c) Keep trying to increase the number of cuts after making sure the previous circle has
enough cuts through it. Do you see any patterns in the number of cuts?

2. Consider the general case: a circle with n cuts. What does the pattern from the previous
question show? Using this pattern, it’s possible to recursively define a function that tells us
how many pieces there will be based on the number of cuts. Let’s look at the number of cuts
compared to the number of pieces

2, 4, 7, 11, 16, 22, 29 · · ·

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 · · ·
What’s the connection here? What would the recursive function be? Don’t look at the back
of this sheet until you make a good educated guess.

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3. If we look at two patterns, and we start at f (1) = 2, every time we add another cut it looks
like we’re adding the number of cuts to the previous number of pieces.

f (1) = 2
f (2) = 2 + f (1)
f (3) = 3 + f (2)
..
.
f (n) = n + f (n − 1)

a) Using the new material we learned about the summation formula, and your previous
knowledge about sums and recursive functions, try to solve this equation for an exact
answer in terms of n.
b) Does this hold for shapes other than circles? Triangles? Squares?
c) Can we use the same formula to generalize the number of pieces n cuts would make for
any shape?

Going Beyond
• Does this formula hold for spheres being cut up by planes?

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Circle Divisions by Lines: Solutions
In class worksheet 3/1/19
1. Lets start with thinking about a circle with 1 cut.
a) How many pieces can you make?

1 cut has a max and min of 2 pieces.


b) Now consider 2, 3? Can you find a minimum? A maximum?

2 cuts has a min and max of 4 pieces.


3 cuts has a min of 6 pieces and a max of 7 pieces.

c) Keep trying to increase the number of cuts after making sure the previous circle has the
max number of cuts through it. Do you see any patterns in the number of cuts and the
number of pieces?

Hopefully, yes! They seem to be increasing each time. They are not increasing lin-
early. The pattern would be that each nth cut adds exactly n more pieces to the max
pieces circle with n − 1 cuts.

2. Consider the general case: a circle with n cuts. What does the pattern from the previous
question show? Using this pattern, it’s possible to recursively define a function that tells us
how many pieces there will be based on the number of cuts. Let’s look at the number of cuts
compared to the number of pieces

2, 4, 7, 11, 16, 22, 29 · · ·

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 · · ·
What’s the connection here? What would the recursive function be? Don’t look at the back
of this sheet until you make a good educated guess.

The recursive function will be exactly what is described in question 3. f (n) = n + f (n − 1).
Encourage students to think about what a recursive function is and explain what recursion is
to them if they are confused.

3. If we look at two patterns, and we start at f (1) = 2, every time we add another cut it looks
like we’re adding the number of cuts to the previous number of pieces.

f (1) = 2
f (2) = 2 + f (1)
f (3) = 3 + f (2)
..
.
f (n) = n + f (n − 1)

a) Using the new material we learned about the summation formula, and your previous
knowledge about sums and recursive functions, try to solve this equation for an exact
answer in terms of n.

3
The solution is:

f (n) = n + f (n − 1)
= n + ((n − 1) + f (n − 2))
= n + ((n − 1) + (n − 2) + · · · + 2 + f (1)
Xn
= k + f (1)
k=2
Xn
= ( k) − 1 + f (1)
k=1
n(n + 1)
= −1+2
2
n(n + 1) 2
= +
2 2
n2 + n + 2
=
2

b) Does this hold for shapes other than circles? Triangles? Squares?

This holds for triangles and squares.

c) Can we use the same formula to generalize the number of pieces n cuts would make for
any shape?

In fact, this holds for all other regular polygons. Irregular polygons can be make strange
pieces technically, if there is an outcropping or such like that, where one cut can make
three pieces. It holds even for infinite plans, since they are infinitely large squares, infor-
mally speaking.