Engaging students: Midpoint

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 term midpoint.

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Euclid was an Alexandrian Greek mathematician who created Euclidean geometry, and is also known as the Father of Geometry. He created a book called Elements, becoming one of the most influential works in mathematics’ history. Not much biographical information is known about him so many researchers believe he was not just one man, but rather a fictional character created by a team of mathematicians. This hypothesis however, is not well accepted by todays scholars. Euclid’s book Elements consists of 13 separate books, all bounded together, which is now what many high school math courses are based off of, – especially geometry. In book one proposition 10, the bisection of finite straight line is constructed and proved, which is also the construction of the midpoint of a finite segment. Many of the books works and theories have been taken, molded and manipulated throughout the years by mathematicians in order to form new and innovative ideas and theories. For example, being able to construct a mid point by using only circles. Mathematicians have challenged Euclid and his proofs many times, thus leading to great discoveries and theories, such as the discovery of doing his constructions in less steps (par value) and other types of math, but they still haven’t disproven much.





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Creating a midpoint hands on before seeing a precise definition is a great strategic way for a student to end up with reasonable definition of sed midpoint. According to Euclid, knowing how to create a midpoint with a ruler and compass can lead to the capability of creating other common shapes like circles, triangles, and squares. Common shapes are all around us in each and every material thing, but not many people think like a mathematician does. For example, a mathematician thinks the roof of a house looks like a triangle and not just an every day roof, a hot tub looks like a circle, a door looks like a rectangle and an infinite number of more examples. There is also more in depth use of common shapes like these. Films create their characters according to the correlation of shapes and emotions. For example, a villain is created to cause terror, fear, and intimidation; the type of shapes that portray those emotions are sharp and jagged, a lot like triangles are. The video attached does a great job on putting together a series of popular films and demonstrating how common shapes on characters and scenes manipulate the viewer’s feelings. This will allow the students to see how being able to define a midpoint leads to the creation of other shapes, and also their role in pop culture and how much it impacts them without even noticing.

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Defining the midpoint is not only limited to a finite line segment. In algebra two the students will learn and have to find the vertex of a parabola. Finding the midpoint of a quadratic equation is equivalent to finding the vertex, because the value x is the axis of symmetry of the parabola. Being able to derive the axis of symmetry is also a beginning step to writing an equation in vertex form and completing the square. The comprehension of the midpoint formulas, axis of symmetry, and vertex form will form a direct path to the introduction of conics and deriving formulas for them. In addition, students are also taught about area approximation under a curve and how to calculate it. When students are first being introduced to the topic they are taught a technique called Riemann sum. Riemann summation is best approached with partitions of equal size over an interval. There are four methods to calculate such technique left Riemann Sum, Right Riemann Sum, Trapezoidal Rule, and Middle Sum. To calculate Middle Sum method, the student will have to approximate the function at the midpoint of partitions.



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