In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.
I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).
This student submission again comes from my former student Christine Gines. Her topic, from Geometry: deriving the midpoint formula.
How has this topic appeared in pop culture?
Finding the midpoint between two points is a fairly common situation we find ourselves in daily. Take for example cutting a sandwich into two equal halves. Here you are estimating the midpoint between the ends of the sandwich. Maybe you want the bigger half of the sandwich though. In this case you first find the middle and then move slightly away. Whether we realize it or not, finding midpoints happens all around us and bringing this to students’ attention is crucial for their development of connections.
One way to aid these connections is to demonstrate how midpoints appear in our cultures. In particular, I found a popular music video “Meet Me Half Way” by The Black Eyes Peas. The video/song is about Fergie and Will.I.Am being apart and missing each other. Fergie’s solution is “Can you meet me halfway? Right at the borderline. That’s where I’m gonna wait… for you.” Fergie and Will.I.Am’s beginning locations are the endpoints in this scenario and they will meet at their midpoint. In the video, Fergie has already reached midpoint. Here, her lyrics are “Took my heart to the limit, and this is where I’ll stay. I can’t go any further than this.” This can be interpreted as a unique midpoint. If Fergie goes any further, she will no longer be at the midpoint. Her limit is the one midpoint. At the end of the video, Fergie and Will.I.Am are reunited at their midpoint.
After this connection is made, it could be reinforced by giving students specific coordinates of Fergie and Will.I.Am and asking students to find their midpoint. For example, Fergie and Will.I.Am were shown to be on different planets in the video. So, the teacher could give them the coordinates to Jupiter and the earth. If they succeed with this problem, a follow up could be to find the endpoint when you have Will.I.Am’s endpoint and their midpoint.
A common issue students face regarding formulas is memorizing them without fully comprehending the formulas. They say, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” So, let’s not just give students a formula, but teach them how to derive the formula by letting them explore the concepts for themselves. A good activity to let students do this is as follows:
In this activity students will Investigate finding the midpoint of a line segment and derive the formula for the midpoint of two points on a coordinate plane.
Have students work in groups of 3 or 4. Each group will have a sheet of large graph paper, markers, a ruler, dice and a penny.
- Students will find two points by rolling dice and tossing penny (Dice represents number and penny represents positive or negative) and plot them.
- They will draw a line to connect these two points.
- Next, students can use the ruler to estimate where the midpoint should be.
- Have students investigate ways to accurately find the midpoint of the segment and challenge them to find a formula as well.
Students can create several graphs so that they can recognize the patterns. By letting them draw and plot their own graph, students will more readily realize that the midpoint is exactly in between the two x-values and the two y-values. This will then hopefully lead students to recall how to find the average of two numbers, which is essentially what the formula is. It is important that students make this connection to their previous knowledge and to guide students through this exploration, teacher can ask leading questions such as:
- What could you use to represent the numbers so you can write a formula?
- How did you find that midpoint?
- Are you sure that is really the midpoint?
- How can you find the number in between two different numbers?
I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought the best educational games are the ones that actually feels like a game and not just something your teacher is making you do. This is exactly how the game “Entrapment” by The Problem Site feels like. Entrapment is actually a puzzle game. The object of the game is to create line segments such that all the given dots are midpoints to these segments.
More specifically, every red dot must be the midpoint of a line segment connecting two gray dots on the playing field. In the image above, the player is one move away from finishing since there remains one red circle which is not a midpoint. This puzzle is not only addicting, but it teaches students to recognize the relationship of x and y (individually) to the midpoint. After completely only a few of these puzzles, this relationship becomes part of your strategy, which in turn pushes students further away from memorization and brings them closer to comprehension. This puzzle brings all these educational benefits, yet it just feels like you’re playing a game!