Real-life Examples of Solids of Revolution and Cross-Sections

I get so much out of creating lessons. When you deeply understand a concept, you can talk about real-life situations and the math behind it. I’ve never thought about it until now, but a revolving door is a perfect example of a solid of revolution. Taking a rectangle and revolving it around a pole, creates a cylinder. What a beautiful example!


The last time I was at an AP Calculus seminar, I learned that another awesome example of a solid of revolution is a honeycomb decoration used at parties. These are perfect examples because you can see the 2-D version before it is rotated. This is exactly what we want students to know. What does the 2-D version become with you rotate it? If they can visualize that, then they get it!


Another concept that goes hand-in-hand with 3-D figures is the idea of cross-sections. Everytime we slice an orange, apple, or a loaf of bread, we have created a cross-section. In Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus, we discuss cross-sections of cones. Depending on how you slice the cone, you can get a circle, an ellipse, a parabola or a hyperbola. 






A great hands-on activity for cross sections is to have the students create a shape out of play-doh. Take a piece of dental floss and slice the object horizontally, vertically or even at an angle. Be sure and have them make predictions before they perform the experiment! Students with phones can take a before and after picture so that other students can see. 






I enjoyed creating my Intro to 3-D Figures resource. It’s amazing how after teaching math for many years, that I can still pick up valuable insights and ideas. Math is infinite. There is no end to what you can learn! 

 Intro to 3-D Figures

Intro to 3-D Figures



30 year educator.

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