# 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 comes from my former student Saundra Francis. Her topic, from Geometry: using a truth table.

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

An activity that can be done with truth tables is notice and wonder. You could give students an example of a truth table, say finding the results of p and q, and have them write down what they notice and what they wonder about the table. This can lead to a great discussion about what they notice about the truth table and how they think it works. Some students might be able to figure out what the table represents or it could help display misconceptions before the lesson starts. Students can then present their wonders, which you can make sure to answers by the end of the lesson. This activity is a good way to discover if students have prior knowledge of the concept and you can see what they hope to have learned by the end of the lesson.

How has this topic appeared in pop culture?

In this Alice in Wonderland clip where Alice attends the Mad Hatter’s tea party we notice the importance of truth tables and logic to distinguish what the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and the Dormouse are discussing. Alice is using logic to discover what the Mad Hatter means and argue with him about his logic. Once you have students watch this video you can ask students to share examples of where logic is displayed. You can choose one example to transfer into a truth table later in the lesson to show students that we can use the logic displayed outside of the classroom. This will engage students and display the importance of using logic to distinguish what others mean.

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

Bertrand Russell, one of the contributors that made truth tables as we use them today, worked within the philosophical branch that combined mathematics and logic. Russell was born in Trelleck, United Kingdom in 1872. He attended Trinity College in Cambridge achieved a First Class distinction in philosophy. In 1903 Russell wrote The Principles of Mathematics with Dr. Allan Whitehead. This book extended the work of Peano and Frege on mathematical logic. This was the book where he contributed to truth tables. In 1918 Russell was imprisoned for six months due to a pacifist article he wrote. While incarcerated he wrote Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. Russell received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1950 in recognition of his thoughts on freedom of thought and humanitarian ideals. He is known for his humorous and controversial writing.

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