It takes years of practice to get really good at pool or snooker. But with a bit of practice and a bit of maths, you should be able to pull off these pool trick shots no problem!

A yellow ball and a white ball on a table. There is a triangle between them.

Put an obstacle between the two balls.

Note: If you don’t know how to use a pool cue to hit balls, ask someone to teach you. It’s not hard, but if you do it incorrectly you might damage the table.

You will need

  • A pool table
  • Three pool balls – we used a white, a yellow and a red ball
  • A cue stick

Off the cushion

Someone has hit the white ball into the cushion.

Aim for a point on the cushion halfway between the two balls.

  1. Put the white ball in the centre of the table.
  2. Imagine a line running straight down the middle of the table, long ways. Put a different ball somewhere along that line.
  3. Put an obstacle such as a pool triangle in between the two balls. Your aim is to hit the white ball into the other ball.
  4. To work out where to aim the ball, imagine a line between the white ball and the target. Divide that line in half, and then trace a line at right angles from your imaginary point out to the cushion. If you aim at that point on the cushion, you should make the shot.
  5. Pool shots can be tricky, so don’t give up if you miss the first few times!

Bouncing balls

A red and a yellow ball touching. they point towards a pocket.

Line up two balls with a pocket, then roll the white ball into them.

  1. Put a red ball on the table. Then, put a yellow ball touching the red, so they line up with one of the pockets. Make sure the yellow ball is closer to the pocket than the red ball is.
  2. Take the white ball and roll it into the red ball. Where does the yellow ball roll to?
  3. Set it up again, and roll the white ball in from a different angle. What do you notice?

Putting it together

  1. Put the white ball in the centre of the table.
  2. Imagine a line down the centre of the table. Put the red ball on that line, and then put the yellow ball touching the first, so they line up with a pocket.

    two balls lined up with the pocket. A white ball in the middle of the table and a triangle between them.

    Combine the two tricks!

  3. Put an obstacle in between the white ball and the target balls.
  4. See if you can put the yellow ball into the pocket!

What’s happening?

Pool is a game of angles. A good player can predict where each ball will be after several collisions. However, it takes a lot of practice to be that good, and it takes a lot of skill to hit the ball exactly the way you want.

When a ball hits a cushion, the angle it comes in at is the same size as the angle it comes out at. If the ball hits at a 45° angle, it will come out at the same angle. If it just grazes the cushion, it’ll stay close.

Six coloured balls form two v shapes pointing at each other.

A much harder trick – when you hit the white ball into the middle of this shape, the six coloured balls should each go into a different pocket!

When two balls hit, they push against each other. The direction they push depends on where the two balls collide, not what direction the balls are moving in. This is why it can be easier to sink the ball in the second part of this activity – the back ball hits the front ball at the right spot to push it towards the pocket.

This activity might take a few attempts, but don’t give up! With some practice, you can master these pool trick shots and maybe even come up with some of your own.

If you’re after more maths activities for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!

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One response

  1. site Avatar

    Great article! Very detailed and informative. Pool sure is a game of angles!

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