By late elementary school, students have already learned about the basic properties of geometric shapes, but they are still exploring the many ways that geometry translates to real-world situations. Sure, finding the distance around, or the “perimeter”, of a polygon like a square or triangle is pretty easy. But how about finding the distance around a circle, the “circumference”? Let’s explore Circumference With Your Bicycle Wheel!

This hands-on-activity gives your child practice in finding the circumference of an object, while teaching her to use a step-by-step approach to gain the information necessary to solve a mathematical problem. Plus, it’s a great way to get outside and have some family fun in the sun!

What You Need:

  • bicycle
  • a sidewalk, or some other place to ride
  • a length of string
  • yardstick
  • paper
  • pencil
  • chalk (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Have your child ride her bicycle down the sidewalk a short, specific distance. Draw a chalk line, or use a marker such as a tree or a sign to show her where to stop. Ask her to estimate how many times her bicycle wheel went around.
  2. Use the string to help your child find the circumference of her bicycle wheel. Ask your child to lay her bicycle down. Hold the end of the string tightly on the tire and have your child to take the other end of the string and place it around the tire until it meets the end you are holding. Cut the string so that is reflects the measurement of the circumference of the tire. Help your child measure the string to the nearest inch. Next, have her measure the distance her bicycle wheel traveled to the nearest inch.
  3. Now that you have the measurement of the tire’s circumference and the measurement of the distance traveled, it’s time to find the number of times your child’s bicycle wheel went around. Ask her how she would set up the problem. Working together, divide the distance traveled by the circumference of the tire to find the answer!

By Jennifer Chalupnik, from

Photo Credit:  Huffy Bikes