A parabola is an approximately U-shaped, mirror-symmetrical plane curve in mathematics. The locus of points in the plane that are equally spaced apart from the directrix and the focus is known as the parabola. Even when Parabola is a mathematical concept, it is highly found in its surroundings. Numerous variations of a parabola can be found in real life.
While a parabola simply seems like a U-shaped curve, it can be tricky to explain it purely by theory or geometry. In such situations, teachers and parents can use real-life examples to give a touch of practical learning. As parabola can be spotted in numerous ways and forms, students can find it more interesting through realistic examples around them.
Interesting parabola examples in real life
While parabola is a different mathematical concept, you can still find it everywhere around you. Humans have used the concept of parabola in the fields of architecture and places of entertainment. Check out how parabola can be spotted at the most obvious destinations and ways in your surroundings.
1. Hit the ground with Badminton Racket!
Badminton racket is a daily life example to understand parabola. While playing, you shall have observed the shape of a badminton racket. It seems to be an oval however, the racket depicts two parabolas. One parabola opens up and one opens down. So, a badminton racket follows the mathematical properties of a parabola. The next time you say the sport, know it is a parabola in two ways.
2. History says it all!
Architectures across the world are constructed with different styles and shapes. However, numerous monuments and structures use the concept of parabola to make giant gates. The entry gates or consider the bottom part of the Eiffel tower; all are based on the mathematical concept of the parabola. These structures are symmetric about their axis and also equidistant from a fixed point in the middle.
3. Sidewalk Chains!
During your everyday commute, you must have noticed the chains tied to the sidewalk on the streets. If you observe these chains carefully, they also follow the mathematical concept of parabola. The structure of the shape is formed by chains where that are equidistant from one another through a fixed middle point. These chains also depict a parabolic figure. If any tangent is drawn through the curve, it is to be perpendicular to the structure.
4. Take Rides through bridges!
You might have seen several bridges while traveling or simply passing by different cities. Have you ever observed these bridges carefully? Most bridges have tied-arch, through-arch, or cable-stayed shapes. These bridges exactly depict the mathematical concept of parabola. The supporting structure of a bridge is always a curve making it parabolic with its features. So, the next time you get out of the house, try a spot parabola in the gigantic bridges.
5. Are you at the park? Look for the fountain!
You must have been to amusement parks or places of entertainment. Do you happen to see artificial fountains around? The fountain is also a classic example to understand parabola. The shape is curved in nature which is also equidistant from a fixed point. All fountains follow the mathematical concept of parabola due to their shapes and geometrical features.
6. Are fruits parabolic?
The Banana fruit has a different shape but, that is actually a good example to understand parabola. The shape is a perfect curve where you can spot the axis to be too symmetric in nature. If you try to draw a tangent through a Banana, you are sure to find it perpendicular, which is one of the important properties of a parabola.
7. Thrill and Math? Watch Amusement Parks!
Though it gives you thrills, sure that you have been on crazy roller coasters at least once in your life. Have you ever imagined that roller coasters also depict an example of a parabola? If you observe the tracks of the roller coaster, the curves depict a mathematical concept of parabola. Even the ups and downs of the roller coaster are equidistant from a fixed point to give a perfect adrenaline rush. Next time you visit a fare, make sure to spot parabola in roller coasters.
8. What a nice Dolphin Jump!
Mesmerizing to spot Dolphins jumping in their complete joy! Nature has its own way to connect with math. A dolphin’s jump is curved in nature and also perpendicular if a tangent is drawn. Hence, the jump is parabolic in nature. Next time you spot a dolphin, show others how parabola exists in marine life.
9. Rainbow after the rain!
Nature has its own way to astonish you in various forms. With a rainbow, you can understand how math is connected to nature in surprising ways. Have you ever spotted a seven-colored rainbow? Apart from 7 colors, understand how its shape is parabolic in nature! It is a curve shape that is most of the time equidistant from a fixed point. This shows that the rainbow is a classic example of a parabola.
10. Have you seen a Motorola? That’s a parabola!
Not only the toys and structures, but even brands also use the concept of parabola to design their logos. Consider the famous Motorola to understand the realistic example of a parabola. The M in Motorola depicts a parabolic shape as it is equidistant from a fixed point. If you try to draw a tangent from the curve, it happens to be perpendicular in nature. So wherever you go, try spotting different brands or names of utility stores that depict parabolic shapes.
11. Normal Bread, Strange Math!
Something that you see or eat quite often is bread. Surprisingly, food also showcases the concept of parabola. You must have observed the top of a bread loaf; it is slightly curved. However, the curve is exactly equidistant from a fixed point. If any tangent is drawn through this shape, it is bound to be perpendicular. Hence, it can be concluded that the top of a bread loaf is a parabolic shape. So, the next time you eat your bread, observe how parabola follows you everywhere!
12. Do you swing on a parabola?
A swing belt is a good example to understand the mathematical concept of parabola. Some swing belts are curved in shape making it a parabolic feature. These swing belts are also equidistant from a fixed point. Now, when you sit on a curved swing, know that it follows the properties and features of a parabola.
13. Listen to this parabolic toy story!
Slinky Toy is one of the most common toys you shall have seen. When the slinky toy is stretched, you can exactly see the mathematical concept of parabola. When it is placed on the top of a rigid surface both ends of the slinky toy become equidistant from one another through a fixed point in the middle. Hence, slinky toys follow the concept of parabola with their structure and features.
14. How can we miss science?
Parabolic figures have been used in science and technology for a long time now. Satellite is a classic example of how this mathematical concept has its usage across the world. The shape of a satellite is curved and these curves are equidistant from one another from a fixed point. If a tangent is drawn, it is bound to be perpendicular to the satellite. Hence, a satellite offers a realistic example of parabola.
Teaching parabola to students can be tricky as they can often be confused between the concepts of parabola and hyperbola. Hence, it is important to include real-life examples and scenarios that help students understand parabola in a comprehensive manner. While real-life examples are a good resource for teachers and parents, there are various other ways to teach this math.
You can always opt for certain books and worksheets that can help teach the concept of a parabola. Teachers and parents can also include different online games and classroom activities that depict the concept of parabolic shapes. Diversification in learning platforms helps students stay connected to the topic and also clears their misconceptions about it.
It is time to use these real-life examples to teach parabolas and also challenge students to find different parabolic shapes around them.
An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’,