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 comes from my former student Michelle Contreras. Her topic, from Geometry: radius, diameter, and circumference of a circle.

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

A way to relate circumference, radius, and diameter to my student’s real life would be by incorporating an end of unit project where they find 5 circular things that are cool to them in their home. I will ask the students to measure those 5 circular objects and find the radius, diameter, and circumference: rounding to the tens place. The students will also be asked to divided the found circumference by the diameter for every object and estimate the number they find in the hundredths place. The students should keep getting the same estimated number and realize how the estimated number for π was discovered. The students are to label the 5 objects with their radius, diameter, circumference, and to present all their finding to the class including the special number they found when dividing the circumference by the diameter. I would also participate with my students in this project by finding 5 objects around my house and present it to the class as well. There is so much the students can gain by this project, not just mathematically. Students will get an opportunity to show their classmates a little bit about themselves as well as gaining confidence in their perception about their knowledge of this topic.

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

Way before William Jones, observations were made regarding the circumference and diameter of a circle. The human race became curious about the circle and made some discoveries; the people saw a relationship between π (pi), the circumference and the radius. The people observed that every time you tried to see how many times the diameter goes into the circumference a similar number was computed. There was talk about the special number being around 22/7 or 355/113 making it seem that the special number was a rational but Jones believed it was an irrational number. Not only Jones but many others before him saw that this special number approached but never quite reached a specific number because it kept going. William Jones introduced the symbol known today for this special number: π in 1706. Though there is a belief by many that Leonhard Euler was the first to introduce and talk about the symbol π, Jones however, published his second book Synopsis Palmanorum Matheseos in 1706 using the symbol π. William Jones was a self-taught mathematician that was born in 1675 that only had a “local charity school education”. Interesting enough Jones was served for the navy before becoming a math teacher. William Jones would charge a fee to those who come to a coffee shop and listen to his lectures in London. Based on the website historytoday.com William Oughtred “used π to represent the circumference of a given circle, so that his π varied according to the circle’s diameter, rather than representing the constant we know today.” The symbol pi is an important irrational number that connects the circumference to the radius and diameter of a circle. There has been many mathematicians who have contributed in some way to this symbol pi regarding circumference.

How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

YouTube is a great tool to use as a classroom teacher, there are many educational videos that can be beneficial to the student’s education. There are videos that include examples and visuals that your students may or may not relate to. Particularly for the topic regarding circumference and its different features radius and diameter there were many intriguing videos that I came across with. There was one video that I felt I would totally use in one of my lesson about circumference. The video is called “Math Antics: Circles, What is Pi?” I would only show about 3 minutes of the video as an engage at the beginning of the lesson, I really liked however how they explained the definition of a circle with visuals. I believe this video will be very beneficial for my students before starting the unit over the circumference, it also does a very good job at capturing the attention of the audience and explaining pi. I have always believed YouTube to be a great tool for educational purposes but there is a website called mathisfun.com which is my go to for a better explanation or summary of certain concepts. This website gives you really good real world examples that anyone can relate to and great ideas for short engaging activities. The definitions are simplified so any middle school student can understand a concept. The website not only have great examples that you can talk about in your classroom as an engage but also have easy to follow explanations. I would definitely use this website when having trouble explaining, in a simpler form, a certain topic to my students.

References:

“William Jones and his Circle: The Man who invented Pi”. July 2009 http://www.historytoday.com/patricia-rothman/william-jones-and-his-circle-man-who-invented-pi

“Math Antics: Circles, What is Pi?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC0fZ_lkFpQ

https://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/circle.html