Student Worksheet

The curvature of a circle is the reciprocal of its radius.

Use Figure 1 to answer question 1 and 2.
        Figure 1

  1. If the radius of circle A is 1/6, then its curvature is ____________.
  2. If the radius of circle B is 1/2, then its curvature is ____________.

Use Figure 2 to answer questions 3-5.
        Figure 2

  1. If the radius of circle C is 1/5, then its curvature is ____________.
  2. If the radius of circle D is 1/3, then its curvature is ____________.
  3. If you have a small circle and a large circle, which one will have the larger curvature? _________________

Use Figure 3 to answer questions 6-9.
The circles in Figure 3 are all tangent to each other. The radius of circle A is 1.
        Figure 3

  1. The curvature of circle A is ______.
  2. The radius of circle C is ______ and the curvature of circle C is ______.
  3. The radius of circle B is ______ and the curvature of circle B is ______.
  4. The radius of circle D is ______ and the curvature of circle D is ______.

In 1643, French mathematician Rene Descartes developed a formula relating the curvatures of four circles that all touch, or are tangent, to each other.

Descartes' Circle Equation Theorem:
Given four mutually tangent circles as in Figure 4 with curvatures a, b, c, and d, then

(a2 + b2 + c2 + d2) = (1/2) (a + b + c + d)2.

        Figure 4

Use Figure 5 to answer questions 10-13.

        Figure 5

  1. If the radius of circle G is 1/2, then its curvature is ____________.
  2. If the radius of circle J is 1/2, then its curvature is ____________.
  3. If the radius of circle H is 1/15, then its curvature is ___________.
  4. Using Descartes' formula, the curvature of circle I is _________, and the radius of circle I is _____________.

Use Figure 6 to answer questions 14-18.

A radius of circle C and circle B is 1/2 and the radius of circle D is 1/3.

        Figure 6

  1. The curvature of circle R is ___________.
  2. The curvature of circle S is ___________.
  3. The curvature of circle O is ___________.
  4. The radius of circle D is _________, and its curvature is ___________.
Note that since circle D contains the others, its curvature will be negative. If all of the points of tangency are external, the curvatures are considered positive, but if one circle encompasses the others, that circle has negative curvature.

Use Figure 7 for questions 19-25.
Circles are tangent to each other as shown in Figure 7. The radius of circle D is 1. [Hint: you have seen parts of this figure before.]

        Figure 7

Find each of the following.

  1. The radius of circle I.
  2. The curvature of circle I.
  3. The radius of circle J.
  4. The curvature of circle J.
  5. What is the best name for figure DSJO? _____________________
  6. What is the best name for segment DO in relation to segment AB? ______________
  7. Given a segment AB as in Figure 8, construct Figure 7.

        Figure 8

Use Figure 9 for question 26.
        Figure 9.

  1. Find the radius and curvature of as many tangent circles as possible given the radii of A, B, and C. E is the center of the circle with the greatest radius, and the following measures are given.
    Circle A; r = 1/14; c = 14
    Circle B; r = 1/23; c = 23
    Circle C: r = 1/11; c = 11
    1. Circle D: r = ______; c = _______
    2. Circle E: r = ______; c = _______
    3. Circle F: r = ______; c = _______
    4. Circle G: r = ______; c = _______
    5. Circle H: r = ______; c = _______
    6. Circle I: r = ______; c = _______
    7. Circle J: r = ______; c = _______
    8. Circle K: r = ______; c = ______

Extended Questions:

  • In the construction of Number 25, what fraction of the semicircular area of circle D above diameter AB is not occupied by circles and semicircles? ________________________

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