Engaging students: Defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere

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 Alejandro Rivas. His topic, from Geometry: defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere.

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

I as a teacher can create a research activity or project with prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. The activity would entail having the students do some research over a particular building or structure of their choice. Once the students have decided on which building or structure I will ask them to identify all of the prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres the building or structure contain. The students will have to count the quantity of each, figure out a way that all of the 3-dimensional figures hold the building or structure together, have a picture, and  to present to the class. After the students have presented their projects, I will then explain how prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres are involved in our everyday lives. I will tie it in and explain that certain professions use these 3-dimensional figures such as Engineering, Architecture, Art, Graphic Design, etc.

How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

This topic extends what my students should have learned in previous courses by them being able to identify simple shapes that form prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. For examples, the most common and referred prism is the rectangular prism. The prior knowledge of the shapes the students need to have are rectangles and squares. To expand my student’s knowledge from previous courses I will have them build prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres out construction paper. Before they cut out and form the 3-dimensional figures the students will have to identify each shape. I will split the students up into different groups. Once the groups have been formed I will let the students choose between a prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere. Once they choose the 3-dimensional figure they will create a poster that must contain the shapes that are being used in order to form the 3-dimensional shape, and the steps the students took to get the end result.

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

A way that technology can be used to effectively engage students with defining the terms prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere is by playing a game of Kahoot! I would begin the class with giving the students the definitions of the different 3-dimensional figures. Once they know the definitions I will break the students off into groups of 2 or 3 depending on the class size and have them come up with a team name. The Kahoot! will have different questions pertaining to the definition of prism, cylinder, cone, pyramid, and sphere. This should be able help me, the instructor, gauge how much the students know about prisms, cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres. This will also give me an opportunity to help the students understand major differences between the 3-dimensional figures. This will allow me to go into detail about the bases of certain 3-dimensional figures and how that ties into the reasoning behind their specific name.

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