# Calculate the Surface Area of a Pyramid

You can find the surface area of a pyramid by adding the *lateral area* of the pyramid (basically, four triangles) to the area of the pyramid’s base (a square).

The following formula gives you the surface area of a pyramid.

The *lateral area* of a pyramid is the area of the surface that connects the base to the peak (it’s the area of everything but the base). Here’s what this means for pyramids:

**The lateral area of a pyramid is made up of triangles.** Each lateral face of a pyramid is a triangle with an area given by the ordinary area formula,

But you can’t use the height of the pyramid for the height of its triangular faces, because the height of the pyramid goes straight down from its peak—it does not go down along the triangular faces. So instead, you use the pyramid’s *slant height,* which is just the ordinary altitude of the triangular faces. (The cursive letter *l* indicates the slant height.) The above figure shows how height and slant height differ.

Ready for a pyramid problem?

Here’s the diagram.

To use the pyramid surface area formula, you need the area of the base and the area of the triangular faces. So, start with the area of the base:

To get the faces, you need the slant height, line *ZW.*

First, solve triangle *PAW.* It’s a 45-45-90 triangle with a hypotenuse (line *PA*) that’s 6 units long; to get the legs, you divide the hypotenuse by the square root of 2 (or use the Pythagorean Theorem):

Now you can get line *ZW* by using the Pythagorean Theorem with either of two right triangles, *PZW* or *AZW*.

Now you’re all set to finish with the surface area formula.

That’s a wrap.