Engaging students: Proving that the angles of a convex n-gon sum to 180(n-2) degrees

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 Jessica Trevizo. Her topic, from Geometry: Proving that the angles of a convex n-gon sum to 180(n-2) degrees.

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E.1 How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

This website allows the students to see that any polygon, whether regular, concave, or convex, the sum of the interior angles will not change. The students are able to drag any angle of their choice and either enlarge, shrink, or rotate the figure. As the student is able to change the figure, the angles automatically change and are shown on the right hand side of the screen. All of the angles are color coordinated so students are able to easily observe which angle measure goes with the corresponding angle they are moving. Also, this activity allows the students to explore with six different polygons which include the triangle, quadrilateral, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, and octagon. The triangle and the quadrilateral include an animated clip which consists of a visual proof for the value of the angle sum. It is a simple proof that students will be able to see and understand at their level.


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A1. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Using geoboards will help the students derive the sum of interior angles formula on their own. For the activity every student will need a geoboard and a couple of rubber bands. The students will be asked to create a specific shape on the geoboard using the rubber bands. Once every student has completed the figure they will be asked to dissect the figure into triangles. Whenever the teacher gives the students the task he/she needs to make sure to state the rules before they begin. The rules are that the rubber bands cannot cross each other, and the rubber bands must start and end at a vertex of the figure. The students will need to fill out the worksheet provided in the link below. The worksheet is arranged to help them see the pattern after they do a couple of examples with different shapes. The goal is to try to help the student realize that the number of triangles that can be created in a certain figure will be (n-2), n being the number of sides. A higher level question for the students could be, “Why are you only able to create (n-2) triangles?”



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D1. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Euclid was a famous Greek mathematician that enjoyed the beauty of mathematics. He created a book called Euclid’s Elements where he gathered the knowledge of other famous mathematicians about the logical development of geometry. Pythagoras, Aristotle, Eudoxus, and Thales were some of the other men that influenced his work. Euclid’s Elements is compressed of 13 different volumes that are filled with geometrical theories. He proved the theories by using definitions as well as the axioms used in math.

Euclid was known as the “Father of Geometry” because he discovered geometry and gave it its value. The book contains over 467 propositions and they all include their proof. One of his propositions is about interior and exterior angles which is relevant to the sum of the interior angles topic. Proposition 32 states that an exterior angle is equal to the sum of the two opposite interior angles of a triangle, as well as the three interior angles of a triangle add up to two right angles. Since Euclid proves that a triangle is equal to 180ᵒ, it proves why we need to multiply (n-2)*180.


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