Engaging students: Completing the square

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 Kelsi Kolbe. Her topic, from Algebra: completing the square.

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A2) How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

When students are learning how to complete the square they are usually told the algorithm take b divide it by two and square it, add that number to both sides. To the students this concept seems like a ‘random trick’ that works. This can lead to students forgetting the formula with no way to get it back. However, if we show students how to complete the square using algebra tiles they will be able to understand how the formula came to be (pictured to the left). This will allow the students to be able to have actual concrete knowledge to lean on if they forget the algorithm.

For an engage I would introduce them how to use the algebra tiles by representing different equations on the tiles. I would mix perfect squares and non-perfect squares. I would wait to do the actual completing the square as the explore activity. This way it’s something they can experiment with and really learn the material themselves.

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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?

Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician in the early 9th century. He oversaw the translation of many mathematical works into Arabic. He even produced his own work which would influence future mathematics. In 830 he published a book called: “Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala” Which translates to “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” This book is still considered a fundamental book of modern algebra. The word algebra actually came from the Latinization of the word “al-jabr” which was in the title of his book. The term ‘algorithm’ also came from the Latinization of Al-Kwarizmi. In his book he solved second degree polynomials. He used new methods of reduction, cancellation, and balancing. He developed a formula to solving quadratic equations. As you can see to the right this is how Al-Khwarizmi used the method of ‘completing the square’ in his book. It is very similar to how we use algebra tiles in modern day. You can really see the effect he had on modern algebra, especially in solving quadratic equations.

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E1) How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

I found a fun YouTube video of the Fort Collins High School Math Department singing a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “blank space”. In the video they are teaching the steps for completing the square. It also addresses imaginary numbers for more complex problems. I think this could be a fun engage to get the students attention. The video incorporates pop culture into something educational. I have always liked watching mathematical parodies videos on YouTube. It not only engages the students, but if they already know the words to the song, they could also get the song stuck in their head, which will help them solve the problems in the future.

References:
Completing the Square. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.mathisradical.com/completing-the-square.html
Mastin, L. (2010). Islamic Mathmatics – Al-Khwarizmi. Retrived September 14, 2017, from http://www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html

How Mathematicians Tip

While funny, it’s usually courteous (at least in the United States) to tip a server more than 11.7% if given good service at restaurant.

Pi vs. Pie

Courtesy Bedtime Math:

Thanksgiving warning

Source: https://www.facebook.com/MathAwesomeness/photos/a.342252885964433.1073741828.342251349297920/574659579390428/?type=3&theater

Happy Pythagoras Day!

Happy Pythagoras Day! Today is 8/15/17 (or 15/8/17 in other parts of the world), and 8^2+15^2=17^2.

We might as well celebrate today, because the next Pythagoras Day won’t happen for over 3 years. (Bonus points if you can figure out when it will be.)

Constructing an angle’s trisectors

I really enjoyed this video about how to trisect angles. Trisection of arbitrary angles is impossible using only a straightedge and compass; however, it is possible by carefully folding a piece of paper.

For further reading:

http://mars.wne.edu/~thull/papers/amer.math.monthly.118.04.307-hull.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huzita%E2%80%93Hatori_axioms

Solving a Math Competition Problem: Part 9

This series of posts concerns solving the following problem from the 2016 University of Maryland High School Mathematics Competition.

A sphere is divided into regions by 9 planes that are passing through its center. What is the largest possible number of regions that are created on its surface?

a. 2^8

b. 2^9

c. 81

d. 76

e. 74

This series was actually written by my friend Jeff Cagle, department head for mathematics at Chapelgate Christian Academy, as he tried technique after technique to solve this problem. I thought that his resolution to the problem was an excellent example of the process of mathematical problem-solving, and (with his permission) I am posting the process of his solution here. (For the record, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to solve this problem.)

Reflection
I didn’t really need the projection into the plane for the solution, but my problem-solving self needed it to be able to count points and regions in slow motion. So, I should present a cleaned-up solution:

 

Solution
Since there are 9 planes, each plane must intersect with every other in a line, creating two points on the surface of the sphere. Thus, there are (9∗8)/2 * 2 = 72 points of intersection, and for n planes, there are 𝑛(𝑛 − 1) points of intersection. With the first plane, there are zero points of intersection and two regions. Suppose we now have n planes and N regions. We add another plane, creating a circle on the sphere. For each segment that the circle intersects, it creates an additional intersection point as it enters, and it divides the region into two parts, adding one additional region. Hence, for each point added, a region is added as well. Since there are two
regions with zero points, there are thus 74 regions with 72 points of intersection.

Solving a Math Competition Problem: Part 8

This series of posts concerns solving the following problem from the 2016 University of Maryland High School Mathematics Competition.

A sphere is divided into regions by 9 planes that are passing through its center. What is the largest possible number of regions that are created on its surface?

a. 2^8

b. 2^9

c. 81

d. 76

e. 74

This series was actually written by my friend Jeff Cagle, department head for mathematics at Chapelgate Christian Academy, as he tried technique after technique to solve this problem. I thought that his resolution to the problem was an excellent example of the process of mathematical problem-solving, and (with his permission) I am posting the process of his solution here. (For the record, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to solve this problem.)

OK, so I wanted to prove that each region would be a triangle. So I decided to project the sphere onto a plane.

The projection of four planes:

Conjecture: The max number of regions is the number of intersection points plus 2.
Proof (by induction)
If we have 1 plane, we have no intersection points and 2 regions. Suppose we have n planes with 𝑛(𝑛 − 1) intersection points and 𝑛(𝑛 − 1) + 2 regions. Now we add the next plane to our figure. The plane creates a circle on the sphere. To maximize the number of regions, we angle the plane so that our circle does not intersect any already-existing intersection points. So the circle goes through a number of segments. Each time it does, it cuts the region bounded by that segment into two. So for each new intersection point, we lose one region and gain two, for a net gain of one region. That is, however many intersection points are added, that will be the number of regions added as well. And since 𝑛 + 1 planes have (𝑛 + 1)(𝑛) intersection points, we will
have (𝑛 + 1)(𝑛) + 2 max regions. DONE.
For the original competition problem, we have 9 planes and hence 9*8 + 2 = 74 regions, answer e.

Solving a Math Competition Problem: Part 7

This series of posts concerns solving the following problem from the 2016 University of Maryland High School Mathematics Competition.

A sphere is divided into regions by 9 planes that are passing through its center. What is the largest possible number of regions that are created on its surface?

a. 2^8

b. 2^9

c. 81

d. 76

e. 74

This series was actually written by my friend Jeff Cagle, department head for mathematics at Chapelgate Christian Academy, as he tried technique after technique to solve this problem. I thought that his resolution to the problem was an excellent example of the process of mathematical problem-solving, and (with his permission) I am posting the process of his solution here. (For the record, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to solve this problem.)

OK, so I wanted to prove that each region would be a triangle. So I decided to project the sphere onto a plane.

The projection of four planes:

After a while, I had a chart for max possible regions.

  • 1 plane: Max regions = 2
  • 2 planes: Max regions = 4
  • 3 planes: Max regions = 8 (exponential?)
  • 4 planes: Max regions = 14 (nope!)
  • 5 planes: Max regions = 22 (huh?)

Then, really because I had no other ideas, I tried counting intersection points AND max regions
(remembering that one intersection point is “at infinity” – that is, the north pole).

  • 1 plane: Intersection Points = 0, Max regions = 2
  • 2 planes: Intersection Points = 2, Max regions = 4
  • 3 planes: Intersection Points = 6, Max regions = 8
  • 4 planes: Intersection Points = 12, Max regions = 14
  • 5 planes: Intersection Points  20, Max regions = 22

Oh. My. Goodness. The max regions are simply the number of intersection points plus 2. Could it really REALLY be that simple?

Solving a Math Competition Problem: Part 6

This series of posts concerns solving the following problem from the 2016 University of Maryland High School Mathematics Competition.

A sphere is divided into regions by 9 planes that are passing through its center. What is the largest possible number of regions that are created on its surface?

a. 2^8

b. 2^9

c. 81

d. 76

e. 74

This series was actually written by my friend Jeff Cagle, department head for mathematics at Chapelgate Christian Academy, as he tried technique after technique to solve this problem. I thought that his resolution to the problem was an excellent example of the process of mathematical problem-solving, and (with his permission) I am posting the process of his solution here. (For the record, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to solve this problem.)

OK, so I wanted to prove that each region would be a triangle. So I decided to project the sphere onto a plane.

The projection of four planes:

After a while, I had a chart for max possible regions.

  • 1 plane: Max regions = 2
  • 2 planes: Max regions = 4
  • 3 planes: Max regions = 8 (exponential?)
  • 4 planes: Max regions = 14 (nope!)
  • 5 planes: Max regions = 22 (huh?)