Engaging students: Deriving the distance formula

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 Sarah Asmar. Her topic, from Algebra II: deriving the distance formula.

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

Many high school students complain about why they have to take a math class or that math is not fun. Deriving and even learning the distance formula is not interesting for very many students. One way that I would engage my students would be to take the entire class outside to teach this lesson. We will walk down to the football and I will have a three students go to one corner of the football field while the rest of the class stands at the opposite corner diagonally. I will then hand a stopwatch to three other students. Each of them will have one stopwatch. The three students on the opposite corner will be running to the corner where the rest of the class is standing. The students holding a stopwatch, will each be timing one of the students running. I will ask one student to run horizontally and then vertically on the outrebounds of the football field, one student will run vertically and then horizontally, and the last student will run diagonally through the football field. Once all three students have made it to the corner where the rest of the class is, I will then ask everyone “Who do you think made it to the class the fastest?” I will allow them to say what they think and why, and then I will ask the students with the stopwatches to share the times of each of the students that ran. At the end, this will get the students to conclude that the student that ran diagonally got to the entire class the fastest. This is a short activity, but it changes the atmosphere for the students by taking class outside for a little, and it is fun.

 

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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?

There were three main mathematicians/philosophers that contributed to the discovery of this topic. Pythagoras, Euclid and Descartes all played a roll in deriving the distance formula. Pythagoras is a very famous mathematician. At first, he saw geometry as a bunch of rules that were derived by empirical measurements, but later he came up with a way to connect geometric elements with numbers. Pythagoras is known for one of the most famous theorems in the mathematical world, the Pythagorean Theorem. The theorem touches on texts from Babylon, Egypt, and China, but Pythagoras was the one who gave it its form. The distance formula comes from the Pythagorean Theorem. Euclid is known as “The Father of Geometry.” He has five general axioms and five geometrical postulates. However, in his third postulate, he states that you can create a circle with any given distance and radius. This is represented by the formula x2+y2=r2. The distance formula comes from this equation as well. Last but not least, Descartes was the one who created the coordinate system. When finding the distance between two points on a coordinate plane, we would need to use the distance formula. All three of these men helped form the distance formula.

 

 

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

Students find everything more interesting when they are able to use technology to learn. There is a website that allows students to explore math topics using what is called a Gizmo. A Gizmo can be used to solve for the distance between two points. The students are allowed to pick what their two points are and then use the distance formula to find the distance between the points they chose. When students have control over something, they tend to do what they are supposed to do without any complaints. The Gizmo allows students to explore on their own without the teacher having to tell them what to do step by step. I can even ask the students to plot three points that form a right triangle and have them find the distance of the points that form the hypotenuse. This can allow the students to make the connection between the distance formula and Pythagorean Theorem. There are many applications out there, but I remember using Gizmos when I was in high school and I loved it. It is a great tool to explore a mathematical topic.

 

 

 

 

References:

 

http://www.storyofmathematics.com/greek_pythagoras.html

http://www.storyofmathematics.com/hellenistic_euclid.html

http://www.storyofmathematics.com/17th_descartes.html

 

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 Katelyn Kutch. 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?

As a teacher I think that a fun activity that is not too difficult but will need the students to be up and around the room is kind of like a mix and match game. I will give a bunch a students, a multiple of three, different angles. And then I will give the rest of the students cards with acute, obtuse, and right triangle listed on them. The students with the angles will then have to get in groups of three to form one of the three triangles. Once the students are in groups of three, they will then find another student with the type of triangle and pair with them. They will then present and explain to rest of the class why they paired up the way that they did. I think that it would be a good way for the students to be up and around and decide for themselves what angles for what triangles and then to show their knowledge by explaining it to the class.

 

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

The topic of defining acute, right, and obtuse triangles extend what my students should already know about the different types, acute, right, and obtuse, angles. The students should already know the different types of angles and their properties. We can use their previous knowledge to build towards defining the different types of triangles. I will explain to the students that defining the triangles is like defining the angles. If they can tell me what angles are in the triangle and then tell me the properties of the triangles then they can reason with it and discover which triangle it is by looking at the angles.

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How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, theatre, etc.)?

I found an article that I like that was written about a soccer club, FC Harlem. FC Harlem was getting a new soccer field as part of an initiative known as Operation Community Cup, which revitalizes soccer fields in Columbus and Los Angeles. This particular field, when it was opened, had different triangles and angles spray painted on the field in order to show the kids how soccer players use them in games. Time Warner Cable was the big corporation in on this project.

 

References:

http://www.twcableuntangled.com/2010/10/great-day-for-soccer-in-harlem/

Engaging students: Area of parallelogram

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 Perla Perez. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a parallelogram.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?
A parallelogram is a two dimensional shape in which the opposite sides of the shape are parallel to each other and the opposite angles are equal. To find the area of a parallelogram the height is multiplied by the base. Before being able to solve for the area of a parallelogram, a learner must have foundational knowledge of what defines a base and height of a shape; as well as be able to understand what it means for lines to be parallel and to intersect (which is taught in grade 4). There are many different types of parallelograms; to name a few: rectangles, rhombuses, and squares. A rectangle is a special parallelogram in which it not only fits the criteria to be considered a parallelogram but all angles are equal. Because of the fact that all angles are equal, students tend to learn how to find the area of a rectangle first, and later learn to apply it to other parallelograms. Although, during elementary education students learn how to measure an angle, define parallel lines, and can even define perpendicular lines these topics are also taught in their high school geometry classes, typically in the beginning of the year.
References:
http://tea.texas.gov/uploadedFiles/Curriculum/Texas_Essential_Knowledge_and_Skills/docs/Grade4_TEKS_0814.pdf
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter111/ch111c.html

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.
Khan Academy provides numerous amounts of resource such as videos, practice question, and even tools that can help illustrate certain topics. One tool available to students helps them understand that the method to find the area of any parallelogram is the same as that of a rectangle. This tool can be found here: https://www.khanacademy.org/math/cc-sixth-grade-math/cc-6th-geometry-topic/cc-6th-parallelogram-area/a/area-of-parallelogram
This tool allows students to translate a right triangle “cut” from the parallelogram to the opposite side to create a rectangle by moving the green dot above.

Educators can begin the lesson by starting out with a rectangle shape and having students find the area. Then, with the tool at hand, have either the teacher or student translate it to look different, and finally prompt the students to see if the area has changed or not. To solidify this concept, the website offers two problems they can solve and visually represents the formula of the area of a parallelogram. By using this tool students visualize the relationship
between a rectangle and any parallelogram and therefore the area as well.

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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? (You might want to consult Math Through The Ages.)
Euclid is known as the father of geometry. “Euclid’s Elements form one of the most beautiful and influential works of science in the history of humankind. Its beauty lies in its logical development of geometry and other branches of mathematics.“ With that said, in this great book of knowledge, Euclid separates topics by smaller books. He proves what parallel lines are in book one as well as the theorem of an area of a parallelogram in proposition 34, “In
parallelogrammic areas the opposite sides and angles equal one another, and the diameter bisects the areas.” Euclid however does not necessarily defines the criteria to be considered a parallelogram. Throughout his books he comes back to the concept of this shape and continues to add more contextual understanding such as relations to parallel lines, triangles, and different bisections made. Although Euclid’s E lements was written in 300 BC, his work is still being taught in high school geometry classrooms today.
Resources:
http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/elements/bookVI/bookVI.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid%27s_Elements

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging students: Perimeters of polygons

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 Nicholas Sullivan. His topic, from Geometry: perimeters of polygons.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?
As a future educator teaching the subject of perimeter of a polygon I would suggest making a project for your students. The main materials needed would be poster board and duct tape, but its possible for the project to end up bigger than a poster board. Using the duct tape the students will fold it in half to make a small “fence”. The students will be able to choose from a variety of situations in which they need to create a fence for certain open areas. An example of situation would be a barn that needs sectioned off areas for chickens, cows, goats, and horses. The student using their own judgement would create the optimal fenced in area to separate the animals as necessary. Then once finished they would need to figure out how much fence to buy, first by converting the model to actual dimensions and then finding the total amount of fence. By the end of the lesson they will realize that no matter what kind of indents they made into the fenced in area they still had to count it as part of the fence, which relates to how perimeter works, you have to find the total amount of distance around any polygon.
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What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic?
How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?
Ancient Egyptians and Babylonains used perimeter amongst other complex math calculations around 1800 B.C. Building the pyramids involved finding the perimeter of the different sections of the pyramids, such that the next layer be measured out and cut correctly. Perimeter breaks down to mean “around measure”. Many people were trying to efficiently and correctly compute the perimeter of a circle (we later came to know this as circumference). Knowing the perimeter of a wheel can help you know how much distance one full wheel rotation takes. Perimeter is a concrete subject and there was not any credit for anyone who “discovered” perimeter, because its something that people have always done, and needed to do.

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


This youtube video very clearly introduces the main topics related to perimeter. I would use it as  an introductory video to engage the students and get some of the vocabulary in their head. I really enjoy the way it talks about breaking a square and taking the edges off, laying them side by side and how that is also the perimeter. This video could set up an activity involving a similar activity to that, for example using string to create a square, and then measuring how long the string is, and comparing that to the perimeter. If everything is done correctly you will get the same answer doing both ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging students: Geometric mean

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 Matthew Garza. His topic, from Geometry: the geometric mean.

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How has this topic appeared in high culture?
Crockett Johnson was an artist, writer, and mathematician who worked as an art editor for McGraw-Hill in the 1920s.  By the 1930s, he was making cartoons; in the 40s he was known for his “Barnaby” comic strips, which appeared in several American Newspapers.  He wrote “Harold and the Purple Crayon” in 1955, which may be one his most famous works.  In the 1960s he created a series of more than 100 paintings to honor of geometry and geometric mathematicians.  Among them was this painting of a construction of the geometric mean of two numbers – line up the lengths and use that as the diameter of a circle, and draw a line from where the two lengths meet up to the circle.  If the students know the Pythagorean theorem, they could try to prove that. Crockett Johnson also created a new construction of a regular septagon, using a compass and marked ruler (and trigonometric identities).  I found another one of his mathematical paintings on the Smithsonian’s website, of a golden rectangle, and laid it over the geometric mean painting. It seems he included the golden ratio in his work, although I could not find anything verifying this.  In general, Crockett Johnson is an interesting person, and that should help engage students.

Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crockett_Johnson
Painting at Smithsonian: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_694664
Another Bio: https://divisbyzero.com/2016/03/23/a-geometry-theorem-looking-for-a-geometric-proof
Regular septagon proof: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3616804?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

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How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?
Finding much information on the history of the geometric mean is pretty difficult. Pythagoras seems to be generally credited for “discovering” the geometric mean, and the Greek mathematicians are famous for the three means – arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic.  Although one not-necessarily credible source explained the word “geometry” comes from words meaning “land measurement.”  From this, we can easily consider the task of land management – to find a square plot of land of equal area to a rectangular one, the side length of the square should be the geometric mean of the two sides of the rectangle.  For this reason, I believe the geometric mean of at least two numbers must have been used as far back as math has been used for commerce; so pretty close to as far back as math has been used (I wouldn’t be surprised if Egyptians, or even Babylonians, were at least aware of such a relationship, whether or not a constructive proof existed).

http://hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/3057/what-is-the-history-of-the-meanings-behind-the-word-geometric

 

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How has this topic appeared in the news?
Geometric mean is extremely useful for rates and values on varying scales.  Rates are used as products – consider something like an investment with a varying return rate for each year.  The regular arithmetic mean of the different rates would not give correct results – after one year at rate a, a quantity k becomes ak; after a second year at rate b, the original k is now bak.  The yearly average, if taken arithmetically, gives [(a+b)2/4]k after 2 years; if the geometric mean is used, it gives (√ab)2k = abk, so it’s more appropriate. With regard to values on varying scales, it prevents a top-heavy average.  Clearly, geometric mean is very useful, which is why finding news will work in a pinch, like if you forgot to plan.  Just do a google news search for geometric mean and you find several articles.  It’s mostly economic news.  The following were not.  Alternatively, a search in a scholarly database gives plenty of examples of geometric mean in action, although the technical writing may be difficult for students to get into for an engage.

Geometric mean to measure water quality: http://www.lajollalight.com/sd-beach-water-advisories-20161004-story.html
To measure general wellness of a nation: http://247wallst.com/healthcare-economy/2016/09/22/obesity-violence-helps-push-us-to-no-28-in-global-health-ratings
College sports stats: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2016/10/11/sec-dominates-college-football-computer-composite-rankings/91910190/

 

Engaging students: Dilations

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 Marissa Arevalo. Her topic, from Geometry: identifying dilations.

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

As teachers, we want to create connections from prior knowledge to help and assist them create a sort of base or foundation for future courses. Dilations refer to the scaling of shapes that can create similar and/or congruent shapes.

Students may not correlate this conceptual idea to scale factors of function transformations. This skill set is from Algebra I and then extended in Algebra II TEKS, which is taught after Geometry. In Algebra I, students are expected to be able to identify what occurs in a function, (i.e. a quadratic function and such). When given the parent function y=x2, if you were to change the size or steepness of the parabola you would  either multiply the function by a: y=ax2 to create a vertical stretch/compression of the function or multiply by b: y=(bx)2 to create a horizontal stretch/compression, which make a and b scale factors. By applying this knowledge, students can hopefully work to identify similar figures and proportions of shapes in relation to their sides/angles.

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How has this topic appeared in high culture (art, classical music, theatre, etc.)?

In photography, prior to digital photography, we had to have photos developed in a dark room, where the only light source is in a corner of the room given by a light bulb. The darkness allows the processing of light sensitive photo material.

Equipment needed for developing photos:

Enlarger

Chemical bath

Running Water

The photo negatives are taken and enlarged through light onto a print by a specific type of transparent projector as the negatives are see-through, light projects onto the negatives which goes through the negative onto the paper on the base. The paper must eventually be developed in a chemical bath to set and hang to dry. The photos must be enlarged, which is a form of dilation by enlarging the size of the photo onto a new surface with the help of scale factors set by the type of enlarger lens on the enlarger (shown on the right). A similar concept is applied with cinema with the projection of a small film strip through a lens with a light onto a large white screen.

 

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

A really cool project that I found for a class project is called “Scale Up”. It is meant for the entire class to partake in where the teacher is to pick some  picture for the class to scale up in size in pieces. The teacher on the website chose the American Gothic picture and copied it onto an 8.5×11 in. copy paper. She then gave coordinates to each square, so as to easily give each student their own square to make in the picture. Every student was given one or two squares and together they each contributed to the bigger picture and eventually created the entire portrait out of sticky notes by either eyeballing  the approximate size of the shapes in their square or by actually scaling the actual size the lines had to be inside of the square they were assigned. This project seems like it would be fun and entertaining for the kids to do together, where they have to in the end talk with one another and discuss what it would take to dilate the photo that there were trying to make.

 

References: http://fasttimesofamiddleschoolmathteacher.blogspot.com/2014/02/scale-up-picture-class-project.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkroom

http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter111/index.html

Engaging students: Finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders

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 Madison duPont. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders.

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

A couple activities from my lesson plan attached below were activities I found to be helpful and interesting for my students when introducing surface area and deriving the formulas themselves from area and circumference formulas they already knew. The first activity I’d like to highlight, though it’s simple, was successful in introducing the concept of surface area to students. In our engage, students were shown pictures of cat posts, cylinders, prism-shaped presents and so on and asked how they could determine the amount of materials needed to cover the surface. They seemed familiar with the concept, but not necessarily the mathematical term or procedure for doing such. After getting their pre-conception-based suggestions and asking them the difference between that and the space the shape takes up (volume), my partner and I were able to see light bulbs go off in their minds and we were able to provide them the answer by introducing the concept of the lesson, surface area. The remaining lesson was an activity where they found the areas of the shapes connected in a cylinder’s net in order to find the total area. After the explore, we had them build the cylinder and then try to determine the area using other formulas. During class discussion, we had students present answers and solidify the reason behind the concept of the formula they found emphasizing the use of circumference being multiplied by length (like length x width of a rectangle but the circumference is the “width”) and that we needed to multiply the area of the circle by two because there were two bases on top and bottom. The student-lead activity of the lesson can be extended to deriving the formula of a surface area of a prism using a prism net, constructing the 3D shape, and then determining the areas of each with different strategies. Once surface area is completed with the two shapes volume exploration could be performed in a similar matter and after all is said and done, the differences between volume and surface area could be compared and contrasted using a chart or Venn-diagram. The activities used and extended from this lesson plan seemed beneficial and better than simply giving the student formulas to memorize and explain because the students physically create the surfaces and see the transition for 2D to 3D and respective use formulas they know to conceptually understand a method of finding the surface area or volume in addition to seeing the formulas. This will help students remember formulas and extend surface area and volume of prisms and cylinders to future topics.

 

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Concepts of volume and surface area of cylinders and prisms will be used in several different courses and topics. The first example is in more advanced math topics such as Pre-calculus and Calculus when they are solving word problems such as determining optimized surface areas for companies to use production materials or the volume of water in a cylindrical tank as water is increasing or decreasing within. Another advanced math course that will utilize the concepts of surface area and volume are the higher calculus courses during which you are expected to find volume (integral of 3D figure) and surface area (using double integrals and partial derivatives) of shapes and also when using cylindrical shell, washer, and disk methods to solve integral problems. The formulas for these methods are largely based off of the concept of surface area and volume. In addition to mathematics, surface area will be discussed in sciences in a more conceptual way. In chemistry, surface area is relevant to chemical kinetics as the rate of a reaction is directly related to the surface area of a substance. In other words, as you increase the substance’s surface area, the rate of the reaction is also increased. Additionally, biology uses surface area concepts when considering the size of an organism and how its surface area affects its body temperature or digestion compared to an organism with a different surface area and volume. Lastly, biology relates to these concepts when learning about the surface area to volume ratio of a cell. This ratio bounds the viable size of a cell as the cell’s volume increases faster than the surface area (Surface Area, Wikipedia, 2016). With the knowledge of what is to be built off of these concepts, understanding surface area and volume of 3D shapes such as cylinders and prisms beyond memorized formulas becomes evidently imperative.

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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? (You might want to consult Math Through The Ages.)

Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, considered his work with cylinders and spheres to be his “most beautiful achievements” as he was able to discover the volume and surface area of these shapes and even wanted his monument to involve a sphere and cylinder (MathPages). He did so by first exploring the area of a circle, which he did by bounding the upper and lower bounds of the circle according to circumference and radius and inscribed/circumscribed n-sided polygons. He then progressed to exploration of the sphere and derived surface area and then the surface area of a cylinder. After, he considered the volume of each shape using what he discovered from surface area with inscribed/circumscribed shapes. According to Mustafa Mawaldi, Archimedes published findings in a book called The Sphere and Cylinder. The more recent history of surface area occurred at the turn of the twentieth century when Henri Lebesgue and Herman Minkowski used the concepts of surface area to develop the geometric measure theory. This theory studies surface area of any dimensions that make up an irregular object (Surface Area, Wikipedia, 2016). Though this is not a comprehensive timeline of the development of surface area and volume, these facts demonstrate that surface area and volume was relevant even in Ancient Greek times and still allows for exploration today, making the topic more relevant and interesting.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_area

http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath343/kmath343.htm

http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/volume-sphere-arabic-mathematics-historical-and-analytical-survey

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_area

Engaging students: Area of a triangle

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 Lucy Grimmett. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a triangle.

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

This topic is perfect for creating a mini 5E lesson plan or a discovery activity. Students can easily discover the area of a triangle after they know what the area of a square is. I would give my students a piece of paper (can also use patty paper) that is cut into a square. The students would be asked to write down the area of a square and from there would derive the formula for a triangle by folding the paper into a triangle. They will see that a triangle can be half of a square. The students will be able to test their formula by finding the area of the square and dividing it by 2 and then using the formula they derived. If the two answers match then the student’s formulas should be correct. The teacher would be floating around the room observing, and asking probing questions to lead students down the correct path.

 

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Finding the area of a triangle is important for many different aspects of mathematics and physics. Students will discuss finding the surface area of a figure, finding volume, or learning further about triangles. When discussing surface area and volume students will have to find the area of a base. In many examples a base can be a triangle. For examples, if a figure is a triangular pyramid and students are finding the surface area they will have to find the area of 4 triangles (3 of which will be the same area if the base is equilateral.) The Pythagorean theorem is also a huge aid when finding areas of non-right triangles. Mathematics consistently builds on itself. In physics triangles are very often used to find the magnitude at which force are being applied to an object. They use vectors to show this relationship and then use trigonometry functions (derived from the area) to find the magnitude of the force.

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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?

Finding the area of a triangle can be performed using different methods. Heron (or Hero) found Heron’s formula for finding the area of a triangle using its side lengths. Heron was considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity. Heron is known for creating the first vending machine. Not the type of vending machines we have today, but a holy water vending machine. A coin would be dropped into the slot and would dispense a set amount of holy water.  The Chinese mathematicians also discovered a formula equivalent to Heron’s. This was independent from his discovery and was published much later. The next mathematician-astronomer who was involved in the area of a triangle was Aryabhata. Aryabhata discovered that the area of a triangle can be expressed at one-half the base times the height. Aryabhata worked on the approximation of pi, it is thought that he may have come to the conclusion that pi is irrational.

 

Information found from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_of_Alexandria

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area#Triangle_area

 

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

 

References:

https://www.mathsisfun.com/definitions/angle.html

http://www.yurtopic.com/society/people/archimedes-facts.html

http://www.10-facts-about.com/Euclid/id/382

 

Engaging students: Deriving the Pythagorean theorem

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 Jillian Greene. Her topic, from Geometry: deriving the Pythagorean theorem.

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

 

Geometers Sketchpad is a fantastic resource to be able to more intuitively explore aspects of geometry without the approximation that often comes from using a graphing calculator or a pencil and paper. There is an exploratory activity that can either allow students to discover the Pythagorean Theorem in a different way, or just to reinforce the relationships between the sides. Have students create of a line segment AB with a length of one unit, whatever the measurement might be. Then create a right isosceles triangle using AB as the two equal sides. Now the students will build off of this triangle, making more right triangle (not necessarily isosceles) using the hypotenuse as one of the legs of the next triangle, and the other leg having the same length as AB.  Do this 6 times and find the length of final triangle’s hypotenuse. Now explain what the pattern is, and how the relationships work. The final product should look like this:

The final side should be sqrt(7), and the hypotenuses should go sqrt(2), sqrt(3), sqrt(4)…all the way up to x. Hopefully students will be fascinated by the relationship!

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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?

 

The Pythagorean Theorem was first theorized by Pythagoras, right? Wrong! There’s a very rich history that comes with this theorem that finds a relation in the sides on right triangles. Actually, there were clay tablets indicating an understanding of this theorem found in Babylonian settlements from more than 1000 years before Pythagoras. The Yale tablet, depicted below, has numbers written out in the Babylonian system that give the number “1.414212963” which is very close to √2 = 1.414213562, indicating an understanding of the 1-1-√2 relationship.

Similarly, there are relics from the Chinese and the Egyptian people having either the relationship between the legs figured out, or the existence of 3-4-5 triangles, or a “Pythagorean triple.” The Egyptians made sure their corners on their buildings were 90 degrees by using a rope with 12 evenly spaced notches to make a 3-4-5 triangle. So where does Pythagoras come in? Pythagoras was the first one to formulate a proof in regards to this theorem. So where are his proofs? Well, Pythagoras felt strongly against allowing anyone to record his teachings in any way, so there is no physical proof left behind. However, from what we know about Pythagoras, it is safe to assume that he approached it geometrically.

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

 

Hello Detective, thank you for coming in to help today. Scar Tellub, 24 year old male, brown hair, green eyes, was found shot early this morning. He was shot for an unknown purpose, but is luckily recovering now.  However, we are determined to find this shooter. We know from eye witness testimonies that the gunshot came from overhead, from the top of a nearby building. We know from where the bodies were found, Mr. Tellub was standing perfectly in the center of three buildings, specifically he was 9 feet away from each building. From the entry and exit of the bullet, we can tell the gun was shot from 15 feet away. We have three possible suspects that could be the culprit, but we need your mathematical prowess to help us nail the bad person.

 

These are the possible shooters:

  1. Madison Bloodi: 19 years old, blonde hair/blue eyes, babysitter. Spotted atop the first building, Trump Tower (20 feet tall), at the time of the shooting.
  2. Hunter Kilt: 34 years old, brown hair/brown eyes, landscaper. Spotted atop the second building, the Eiffel Tower (6 feet tall), at the time of the shooting.
  3. Winston Payne: 26 years old, black hair/green eyes, lawyer. Spotted atop the third building, the Leaning Tower of Pisa (12 feet tall), at the time of the shooting.

 

Again, thank you for your time, Detective. We know full well that you won’t let us down. Please draw us a photo and show us your work for all three suspects so we can provide them to the judge. Happy mathing!

 

References:

 

http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/emt668/emat6680.f99/challen/pythagorean/lesson4/lesson4.html

 

http://www.ualr.edu/lasmoller/pythag.html

 

(I did a similar activity to the murder one with students before, but I cannot find it online again, so I wrote a new one kind of similar to what I remember)