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Geometry Theorems in Sidewalk Chalk

By Bill Nye | Published: December 13, 2010 – 8:33 pm

Sunday morning around 9:00 am, I was riding my bike up and down some of the steeper hills in the fabled Hollywood Hills, which are to be sure not far from home. I like to feel the burn and appreciate the focus that steep climbs require, arrrgghhh…

I came upon three 8th graders with chalk working along the curb of a very quiet neighborhood street. They were standing around a small box. They were all looking at the box and thinking. So, I thought, “Hey, maybe they’re about to blow something up (something in the box).” It turned out they were working on some geometry problems. They had a rectangle with diagonals in chalk. They were discussing which angle was equal to which, which triangles might be congruent, and a few other wonderful conclusions that might be drawn from this fundamental sketch.

I was and am just delighted thinking about it. They were working as a team, two girls and a boy, outdoors, with hand-drawn sketches of line segments, angles, and intersections– all with chalk on pavement. On this Sunday morning, some learning was happening right before my eyes. We talked for a bit about geometry and its importance in our daily lives and in the history of our civilization. I asked them if they knew or embraced the two fundamentals in Euclidian Geometry. They knew them, but perhaps not immediately. I went on, as I am wont to do about the planets, the Solar System, and our place in space. (Check out planetary.org.) After a bit, I realized that they recognized me, but were playing it cool. It was fun, after a fashion. I rode away.

I got back to the bottom of one of the steep hills and started for home. About a kilometer later, I thought, “I should go back and get a picture or two.” I turned around and climbed that steep hill again, this time from the other side. The kids were not around; maybe they were back inside tweeting and booking of Face. At any rate, they left their chalk drawing. While I was gone, they completed a record of the two fundamental rules in Euclidian Geometry right there on the street:

1) ⎢⎢ NEVER MEET [parallel lines]
2) X EQUAL [vertical angles are always]

If I may, how cool is that?

As I rode off, I shouted for the world to hear, “GEOMETRY RULES!!!”

29 Responses to “Geometry Theorems in Sidewalk Chalk”

  1. Jake Newcome says:

    wow that rocks. GEOMETRY RULES!!!!!!!!

  2. ilham says:

    Euclidian Geometry, something from math that’s, uh… I don’t get it!, due to gradient, derivative, and stuffs like that. Oh God, it is amazing! Geometry ROCKS (me)!

  3. Jen says:

    Bill Nye, my hero. Am a long-time elementary, science loving teacher. 2nd graders can be very clever. Thanks for all you’ve done to help make my job easier over the years.

  4. Theryn says:

    I have learned alot in the past few years beacause of watching youre show.

  5. Joseph says:

    Bill Nye, you are awesome, not many famous/popular people would take the time of day to stop and help students playing with chalk on the side of the street. YOUR AWESOME!

  6. Paula says:

    Wow, what a great experience. It sounds like that was one of those rare moments when the world and your place in it feels exactly right. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Becket says:

    HAHA those are my friends

  8. [...] Sunday morning around 9:00 am, I was riding my bike up and down some of the steeper hills in the fabled Hollywood Hills, which are to be sure not far from home. I like to feel the burn and appreciate the focus that steep climbs require, arrrgghhh? I came upon three 8th graders with chalk Read More > [...]

  9. [...] Sunday morning around 9:00 am, I was riding my bike up and down some of the steeper hills in the fabled Hollywood Hills, which are to be sure not far from home. I like to feel the burn and appreciate the focus that steep climbs require, arrrgghhh? I came upon three 8th graders with chalk Read More > [...]

  10. [...] Sunday morning around 9:00 am, I was riding my bike up and down some of the steeper hills in the fabled Hollywood Hills, which are to be sure not far from home. I like to feel the burn and appreciate the focus that steep climbs require, arrrgghhh? I came upon three 8th graders with chalk Read More > [...]

  11. [...] Sunday morning around 9:00 am, I was riding my bike up and down some of the steeper hills in the fabled Hollywood Hills, which are to be sure not far from home. I like to feel the burn and appreciate the focus that steep climbs require, arrrgghhh? I came upon three 8th graders with chalk Read More > [...]

  12. Ernest says:

    that is the raddest.

  13. Ally says:

    Bill Nye Rules!!

  14. Terri Allen says:

    Im only in 1st year of the academy and my whole class (me included) always love to watch bill nye the science guy in science. The boys in my class also always sing the opening song to your show. Im a girl but i loveeee bill nye i have learnt alot of things just by watching your show. It’s great xx

  15. Kirei says:

    Bill Nye for President

  16. andrewEMCameron says:

    I don’t know who the lucky one’s are. Bill for seeing something so amazing, inspiring, and beautiful, or those 3 8th graders who got to just have a chat about science by the side of the road with one of my heroes.

    Hmmmm….

  17. Nathan Wosnack says:

    Great story, Bill Nye. I shared it on the Booking of Face!

  18. Mark says:

    Bill, it has been almost 6 months. More content!

  19. Aaron Nickovich says:

    That is amazing! I still remember the old days in elementary and middle school when the science teacher put on your videos. I’m in college now and although I’m far beyond the content you provide in those videos I still enjoy your work and I’m glad you still continue to inspire curious children like me.

  20. When I read that story I remembered when I used to watch your videos in school!

  21. rileyMAnuel says:

    BILL I LOVE UR VIDS there so cooL i LIke ti when U TAlk about the earths ROTATIN!!!!!!!!

  22. Grace from Pittsburgh says:

    That’s awesome!! I wish you walked up to me and taught me geometry!! I’m in eighth grade right now and that would be the coolest thing ever.

  23. Fred from Princeton, NJ says:

    Bill. I loved your show when I was a kid, and now realize you have no faith in life – I and my kids are turning you off. You will probably not post this because you are afraid to admit your inability to have faith and believe in a higher power (reference commentary re: Creationism), but I had to express my opinion.

  24. HS says:

    I know geometry rules but you cant do such stuff on public property you know. lol

    ~HS

  25. Hi bill nye you know i want yo be a genuis? In china in teda international school we watch your videos and they are fun.

  26. Michelle Claxton says:

    That is Awesome!

  27. Lisa Hedrick says:

    One of the doctors at the hospital, which I highly respected, said on religion ‘I am closer to God in my garden that anywhere I’ve ever been’. Your outreach, and Carl Sagan, have made it ever true just how wonderful this world and all creation works. We are an adaptive world. Over these many long years since God set up the chemistry and physics enabling the world as we know it, life has found a way to continue, sometimes evolving, such as our appendix or third molars(the fact that there are already people who have no sign of them ’cause we don’t ‘need them’)sometimes the gene pool being culled (u have heard that us girls have an ancient instinct to find sperm donors bigger, stronger, smarter, and as for birds more colorful) Science cannot open up all the secrets of this world in my lifetime. It is said in the bible that we will not know till we get to heaven, think the story of the dragonfly so common in the hands of mourners. I see His miracles more often appreciate them because I have a better understanding of what u call science. I wonder what name God would have given a set of properties that would grow and change/evolve? I believe He would have belived that with time we would apreciate it and take care of all we have and will have. Thank u Lisa

  28. Keith Ford says:

    Geometry rules! Geology rocks! Chemistry is chool!!
    Bill I am a huge fan of yours. I feel indebted to men and women like you, willing to stand up for science in the face of superstition and fear. If more people would demand our leaders face the facts about climate change, maybe we could lead the world in counteracting the effects of CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, the anti-green, pro-business stance of some politicians stands in the way of real progress. Very soon we will all find that the effects of global warming will make life much more difficult; for some less-dominant species, impossible. The massive coral reef death of the last decade, and the death of scores of entire amphibian species, foretell that we may have done far too little, far too late.
    You go Bill. You are awesome!!

  29. Anntichrist S. Coulter says:

    Just watched the “debate” with that idiot Ham @ his pseudo-”museum” in Kentucky, and even though I’ve been a fan since waaaayyy back in the day, and even though I was slightly older than the target demographic of the “Science Guy” show, I enjoyed it every weekend — all of this prattling to say that I have never respected nor adored you more than I do right now, Mr. Nye. Not just because you had empirical evidence & anecdotal humor for every question/challenge to scientific fact & the math & science theorems that enable us to explore this planet and the universe, and were more than capable of providing REAL ANSWERS every time, but because you had the Buddha-like patience (who else would spend that much time under a tree, looking for enlightenment?) & intestinal fortitude to WITHSTAND every smug, ignorant, anti-intellectual OUTRIGHT LIE that came out of Ham’s mealy snake-oil-salesman MOUTH.

    Had I had to endure the stacked-against-you audience who don’t recognize genuine, naturally-gifted humor when they see/hear it, the outright lies & made-up pseudo-”evidence,” and the lamest repeated retort about “BECAUSE TEH BIBUL SEZ SO!” that he resorted to when he had NO ACTUAL RESPONSE NOR EVIDENCE in reply to any questions or statements — had I had to have stood in your place and wade through that thirty-meter-deep pile of fertilizer, I’d have taken a baseball bat to your opponent. Thankfully, for science, for education, and for the future of human evolution, you have far more patience & wisdom than I, and you OWNED that moron, so many times, in every possible way (I know, I know, who would WANT to “own” anything THAT USELESS?!?!), that everyone I know, online & off (barring the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing so-called “relatives”), was standing-up in their own living rooms during the live web feed, applauding & cheering you on. Unfortunately, the last “flash” update has crippled my FireFox ability to view ANY online videos, so tonight’s C-SPAN broadcast was my first chance to see the debate, but I am SO grateful that I got to see it at all — it was excruciating and made me want to pull an Elvis on my television repeatedly, every time that Ham opened his lying mouth, but to hear your eloquent, patient, and indeed, overly-KIND-to-that-idiot replies, arguments & statements, made the torment worth it.
    Now, then, and forever, thank you so much for being Bill Nye The Science Guy. Please don’t EVER retire. And if PBS was REALLY smart, they’d get you, Drs. Hawking & DeGrasse-Tyson all into the same room to REALLY do the “COSMOS” reboot PROPERLY. I have no doubt that Neil can pull it off, and sincerely miss NovaScience NOW, but to have all 3 of the best-known & admirable scientific minds of our time in & on one show? AWE-INSPIRING.

    Sincerest gratitude,
    A.S.C.

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