Engaging students: Defining the words acute, right, and obtuse

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 Lisa Sun. Her topic: how to engage geometry students when defining the words acute, right, and obtuse.

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

I believe a scavenger hunt will be a great activity for the students to help concrete their knowledge of acute, right, and obtuse angles. It will be a take home activity rather than an activity that they’ll complete in school. I’ve created this scavenger hunt to take place outside of the classroom so students will understand that what we learn in math class takes place in our everyday lives outside of the walls of school.

This scavenger hunt activity requires students to observe their surroundings everywhere they go. I want them to find 10 acute angles, 10 right angles, and 10 obtuse angles. Along with that, they must take a picture or sketch accordingly to which angle the image has. (For example, picture/sketch of a corner of book shelf – right angle). To spark some motivation and interest, I will announce to the students that if they are able to find 15 of each angle instead of 10, I will add 2 points to their next exam grade.


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

Archimedes and Euclid are the mathematicians who have discovered and developed the idea of the types of angles that we have today. As a student, when my teachers related the topic with the brilliant minds who made such discoveries, I felt that the topics that I was learning were more relatable and I had gained a deeper understanding of the topic. I hope to do the same for my students with this topic. Here are the following interesting facts about Archimedes and Euclid to keep the students enlightened for geometry.

Interesting facts about Archimedes:

  • 1 of 3 most influential and important mathematician who ever lived (other two are Isaac Newton and Carl Gauss)
  • Rumors that he was considered to be of royalty because he was so respected by the King during his time
  • Invented the odometer

Interesting facts about Euclid:

  • “Father of Geometry”
  • His book “Elements” is one of the most powerful works in history of mathematics
  • His name means “Good Glory” in Greek


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

Above is a link that I would present, on replay, as students are walking into my classroom to set the tone of the classroom for the day. Once they are all seated, I will tell them to get out their interactive journal and write at least 5 facts that are new to them as I play the video for them once more. By doing so, we’re keeping the students engaged as they are reinforcing what they just heard in writing. Once students are done with this task, I will select students randomly to state one fact that they had just learned from the video. Guide the students to know and remember the “take home message” which are the following:

  • Definition of Angle: The amount of turn between two rays that have a common end point, the vertex
  • Angles are measured in degrees
  • Angles are seen everywhere
  • Acute angles: 0 – 89 degrees
  • Right angles: 90 degrees
  • Obtuse angles: 91-180







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