Engaging students: Using a truth table

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 Bich Tram Do. Her topic, from Geometry: using a truth table.

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Funny video to engage student that a university professor made in class.

Or another clip from the movie “Liar, Liar”

How can you tell if an argument is valid or invalid? In this lesson, we will learn about the truth table and technique to detect the validity of any simple argument.

A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

I could split students into a group of three students and hand each group 3 bags of different colors cards with printed statements on each one. For example:

Bag 1 has statements such as:

If you are a hound dog, then you howl at the moon.

Bag 2 contains conditions:

You don’t howl at the moon.

Bag 3 has conclusions:

Therefore, you aren’t a hound dog.

In each group, the teacher gives a poster/ construction paper that students must search for the correct responses, match them up, and paste them on the construction paper on the left side. On the right side of the paper, the students are asked to answer the question whether the arguments are valid or not and their reason by making a truth table.

Students will have total of five sets and given about twenty minutes to finish. When the students have all finished, I will ask each group coming up with a new example, state their reasons and present to the class. I might have the students volunteer to be 3 judges and vote for the group with the best example. The activity is fun and helps students to apply what they learned as well as their mastery of the materials.

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

According to Shosky (1997), the truth table matrices was claimed to be invented by Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein around 1912. However, there was evidence shown that the logician Charles Peirce (1839-1914) had worked on the truth table logic (1883-84) even before the other two mathematicians worked on the same logic. However, Peirce’s unpublished manuscript did not directly show as a “table”, but the “truth functional analysis”, and was in matrix form. Peirce used abbreviations v (for true) and f (for false) and a special symbol ―< to connect the relationship between statements, say a and b. Later, Russell and Wittgenstein (1912) claimed the first appearance of the truth table device, causing doubts if they worked together or separated and evidences needed to make the claim. In short, the invention of the truth table was credited to Charles Peirce in “The Algebra of Logic” (around 1880) and the “table” form was developed to be clearer and easier for understanding, along with many important contributions of Russell, Wittgenstein based on their knowledge of matrix, number theory, and algebra.


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E1. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

The truth table topic doesn’t have many engaging activities for students to learn even though it has many applications, especially in digital designing, electrical systems. However, we can include some use of technology so that students who finished group activities early or students who needed more practice can find. This website is an interactive activity for students to do so:


There are different conditions represented by p, q, and r on the first three columns. The next columns, students are asked to fill out the answer (True or False) to each corresponding condition. When they are done with one column, just click on the statement “I’m done with this column”, and then the students will be directed to another one to try. In addition, they can always click on the pink rectangular box in the bottom to change to a different truth table.





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