Quantitative Skills > Teaching Methods > Back of the Envelope Calculations

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations

Barbara Tewksbury, Hamilton College

Many numbers that we use in the geosciences are outside a student's frame of reference and personal experience. Using back-of-the envelope calculations that help put very large or very small numbers into perspective by analogy with something a student can visualize can accomplish a number of things:

Tips for using back-of-the-envelope calculations effectively:

Check out the Back of the Envelope Examples in the Activity Collection!

References and Resources

A View From the Back of the Envelope (more info) : "Fermi Questions" is another term for what we call Back of the Envelope Calculations. This site has more information on approximate calculations as well as many links to further resources.

      Next Page »