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.


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