This site demonstrates the "Buffon's needle" approach to estimating Pi, which is a Monte Carlo type estimate that involves the dropping of needles between two lines.
Type of Material:
Java Applet should run on any platform.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
As a class product, the class could gather data by actually dropping a needle on a provided piece of lined paper. Data can be collected and processed to check against the computer results.
Target Student Population:
Courses in elementary probability, students interested in probabilistic methods. Can be used as a supplement when discussing Monte Carlo methods.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Calculus and Trigonometry
The problem is discussed in the applet and references are given. Ideas are presented clearly and the graphics are helpful.
It appears that when dropping the needle on the paper all positions for the center as well as all angles are assumed to be equally likely. This is not stated explicitly, but students might need this pointed out.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The applet will expose the reader to the "Buffon's needle" estimate of Pi and to the idea of Monte Carlo simulations in general.
The focus is narrow, but references to put this into a larger context are given.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The applet itself is extremely easy to use. Since it has only one purpose this is not surprising. The background given is enough to provide adequate documentation.
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