sliderule.jpgBY BILL FERRIS

“Back in my day we didn’t have those fancy calculators,” my dad used to say. “We had to use slide rules.” Which was his way of telling me he wouldn’t be much help with my math homework.

Sure, your math students are probably addicted to their TI-85s, smart phone apps, or online tools like Calc5, but sometimes it’s good to experiment with the tools of days gone by. Now you can make your own circular slide rule by following these directions from the physics department at the University of Montana.

Among other supplies, you’ll need a nice printer (600 dpi), some thin cardboard, and transparency paper, which your school probably has in the supply closet somewhere (check the instructions for the complete list of supplies). Once it’s built, you can get to calculating just like your dad used to. You and your students can even find directions on how to use a slide rule.

Why make a slide rule? It could be an edutaining diversion in an advanced math class. Also, according to the site, “A practiced user with a good quality slide rule can multiply, divide, exponentiate, take logarithms and perform trigonometric operations to three significant figures more quickly than with an electronic calculator.” Hmm, maybe I would’ve done better in calculus if I’d tried that slide rule my dad was always talking about.

Circular Slide Rule

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Photo credit: oskay on Flickr.

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