# Engaging students: Deriving the double angle formulas for sine, cosine, and tangent

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 Morgan Mayfield. His topic, from Precalculus: deriving the double angle formulas for sine, cosine, and tangent. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic? I want to provide some variety for opportunities to make this an engaging opportunity for Precalculus students and some Calculus students. Here are my three thoughts: IDEA 1: For precalculus students in a regular or advanced class, have them derive this formula in groups. After students are familiar with the Pythagorean identities and with angle sum identities, group students and ask them to derive a formula for double angles Sin(2θ), Cos(2θ), Tan(2θ). Let them struggle a bit, and if needed give them some hints such as useful formulas and ways to represent multiplication so that it looks like other operations. From here, encourage students to simplify when they can and challenge students to find the other formulas of Cos(2θ). Ask students to speculate instances when each formula for Cos(2θ) would be advantageous. This gives students confidence in their own abilities and show how math is interconnected and not just a bunch of trivial formulas. Lastly, to challenge students, have them come up with an alternative way to prove Tan(2θ), notably Sin(2θ)/Cos(2θ). This would make an appropriate activity for students while having them continue practicing proving trigonometric identities. IDEA 2: This next idea should be implemented for an advanced Precal class, and only when there is some time to spare. Euler was an intelligent man and left us with the Euler’s Formula: $e^{ix}=\cos x + i \sin x$. Have Precalculus students suspend their questions about where it comes from and what it is used for. This is not something they would use in their class. Reassure them that for what they will do, all they need to understand is imaginary numbers, multiplying imaginary numbers, and laws of exponents. Have them plug in x = A + B and simplify the right-hand side of the equation so that we get: $\cos(A+B)+i\sin(A+B)= a + bi$ where $a$ and $b$ are two real numbers. The goal here is to get $\cos(A+B)+i\sin(A+B)= \cos \theta \cos \theta - \sin \theta \sin \theta + (\sin \theta \cos \theta + \cos \theta \sin \theta)i$. All the steps to get to this point is Algebra, nothing out of their grasp. Now, the next part is to really get their brains going about what meaning we can make of this. If they are struggling, have them think about the implications of two imaginary numbers being equal; the coefficient of the real parts and imaginary parts must be equal to each other. Lastly, ask them if these equations seem familiar, where are they from, and what are they called…the angle sum formulas. From here, this can lead into what if x=2A? Students will either brute force the formula again, and others will realize x = A + A and plug it in to the equation they just derived and simplify. This idea is a 2-in-1 steal for the angle sum formulas and double angle formulas. It’s biggest downside is this is for Sin(2θ) and Cos(2θ).   IDEA 3: Take IDEA 2, and put it in a Calculus 2 class. Everything that the precalculus class remains, but now have the paired students prove the Euler’s Formula using Taylor Series. Guide them through using the Taylor Series to figure out a Taylor Series representation of $e^x$, $sin x$,  and $cos x$. Then ask students to find an expanded Taylor Series of to 12 terms with ellipses, no need to evaluate each term, just the precise term. Give hints such as $i^2= -1$ and to consider $i^3=i^2 \cdot i = -i$ and other similar cases. Lastly, ask students to separate the extended series in a way that mimics $a + bi$ using ellipses to shows the series goes to infinity. What they should find is something like this: Look familiar? Well it is the addition of two Taylor Series that represent Sin(x) and Cos(x). This is the last connection students need to make. Give hints to look through their notes to see why the “a” and “b” in the imaginary number look so familiar. This, is just one way to prove Euler’s Formula, then you can continue with IDEA 2 until your students prove the angle sum formulas and double angle formulas. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses? Students in Texas will typically be exposed to the Pythagorean Theorem in 8th grade. At this stage, students use $a^2+b^2=c^2$ to find a missing side length. Students may also be exposed to Pythagorean triples at this stage. Then at the Geometry level or in a Trigonometry section, students will be exposed to the Pythagorean Identity. The Identity is $\sin^2 \theta + \cos^2 \theta = 1$.  I think that this is not fair for students to just learn this identity without connecting it to the Pythagorean Theorem. I think it would be a nice challenge student to solve for this identity by using a right triangle with hypotenuse c so that Sin (θ) = b/c and cos (θ) = a/c, one could then show either $c^2 \sin^2 \theta + c^2 \cos^2 \theta = c^2$ and thus $c^2(\sin^2 \theta + \cos^2 \theta) = c^2$ or one could show $(a/c)^2 + (b/c)^2 = (c/c)^2 = 1$ (using the Pythagorean theorem). From here, students learn about the angle addition and subtraction formulas in Precalculus. This is all that they need to derive the double angle formulas.

$\sin(\alpha + \beta) = \sin \alpha \cos \beta + \cos \alpha \sin \beta$

$\sin(\alpha - \beta) = \sin \alpha \cos \beta - \cos \alpha \sin \beta$

$\cos(\alpha + \beta) = \cos \alpha \cos \beta - \sin \alpha \sin \beta$

$\cos(\alpha - \beta) = \cos \alpha \cos \beta + \sin \alpha \sin \beta$

$\tan(\alpha + \beta) = \displaystyle \frac{\tan \alpha + \tan \beta}{1 - \tan \alpha \tan \beta}$

$\tan(\alpha - \beta) = \displaystyle \frac{\tan \alpha - \tan \beta}{1 + \tan \alpha \tan \beta}$

This would be a good challenge exercise for students to do in pairs. Sin(2θ) = Sin(θ + θ), Cos(2 θ) = Cos(θ + θ), Tan(2θ) = Tan(θ + θ). Now we can apply the angle sum formula where both angles are equal: Sin(2θ) = sin(θ)cos(θ) + cos(θ)sin(θ) = 2sin(θ)cos(θ) Cos(2θ) = cos(θ)cos(θ) – sin(θ)sin(θ) =  (We use a Pythagorean Identity here) Tan(2θ) = $\displaystyle \frac{\tan \theta + \tan \theta}{1 - \tan^2 \theta} = \frac{2 \tan \theta}{1-\tan^2 \theta}$ Bonus challenge, use Sin(2θ) and Cos(2θ) to get Tan(2θ). Well, if $\tan \theta = \displaystyle \frac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}$, then

$\tan 2\theta = \displaystyle \frac{\sin 2\theta}{\cos 2\theta}$

$= \displaystyle \frac{2 \sin \theta \cos \theta}{\cos^2 \theta - \sin^2 \theta}$

$= \displaystyle \frac{ \frac{2 \sin \theta \cos \theta}{\cos^2 \theta} }{ \frac{\cos^2 \theta - \sin^2 \theta}{\cos^2 \theta} }$

$= \displaystyle \frac{2 \tan \theta}{1 - \tan^2 \theta}$

The derivations are straight forward, and I believe that many students get off the hook by not being exposed to deriving many trigonometric identities and taking them as facts. This is in the grasp of an average 10th to 12th grader. What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic? I have included four links that talk about the history of Trigonometry. It seemed that ancient societies would need to know about the Pythagorean Identities and the angles sum formulas to know the double angle formulas. Here is our problem, it’s hard to know who “did it first?” and when “did they know it?”. Mathematical proofs and history were not kept as neatly written record but as oral traditions, entertainment, hobbies, and professions. The truth is that from my reading, many cultures understood the double angle formula to some extent independently of each other, even if there was no formal proof or record of it. Looking back at my answer to B2, it seems that the double angle formula is almost like a corollary to knowing the angle sum formulas, and thus to understand one could imply knowledge of the other. Perhaps, it was just not deemed important to put the double angle formula into a category of its own. Many of the people who figured out these identities were doing it because they were astronomers, navigators, or carpenters (construction). Triangles and circles are very important to these professions. Knowledge of the angle sum formula was known in Ancient China, Ancient India, Egypt, Greece (originally in the form of broken chords theorem by Archimedes), and the wider “Medieval Islamic World”. Do note that that Egypt, Greece, and the Medieval Islamic World were heavily intertwined as being on the east side of the Mediterranean and being important centers of knowledge (i.e. Library of Alexandria.) Here is the thing, their knowledge was not always demonstrated in the same way as we know it today. Some cultures did have functions similar to the modern trigonometric functions today, and an Indian mathematician, Mādhava of Sangamagrāma, figured out the Taylor Series approximations of those functions in the 1400’s. Greece and China for example relayed heavily on displaying knowledge of trigonometry in ideas of the length of lines (rods) as manifestations of variables and numbers. Ancient peoples didn’t have calculators, and they may have defined trigonometric functions in a way that would be correct such as the “law of sines” or a “Taylor series”, but still relied on physical “sine tables” to find a numerical representation of sine to n numbers after the decimal point. How we think of Geometry and Trigonometry today may have come from Descartes’ invention of the Cartesian plane as a convenient way to bridge Algebra and Geometry. References: https://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath205/kmath205.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_trigonometry https://www.ima.umn.edu/press-room/mumford-and-pythagoras-theorem

# Engaging students: Computing the cross product of two vectors

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 Chi Lin. Her topic, from Precalculus: computing the cross product of two vectors.

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

I found one of the real-life examples of the cross product of two vectors on a website called Quora. One person shares an example that when a door is opened or closed, the angular momentum it has is equal to $r \times p$, where $p$ is the linear momentum of the free end of the door being opened or closed, and $r$ is the perpendicular distance from the hinges on which the door rotates and the free end of the door. This example gives me an idea to create an example about designing a room. I try to find an example that closes to my idea and I do find an example. Here is the project that I will design for my students. “If everyone here is a designer and belongs to the same team. The team has a project which is to design a house for a client. Your manager, Mr. Johnson provides a detail of the master room to you and he wants you to calculate the area of the master room to him by the end of the day. He will provide every detail of the master room in three-dimension design paper and send it to you in your email. In the email, he provides that the room ABCD with $\vec{AB} = \langle -2,2,5 \rangle$ and $\vec{AD} = \langle 5,6,3 \rangle$. Find the area of the room  (I will also draw the room (parallelogram ABCD) in three dimensions and show students).”

Reference:

https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-daily-life-examples-of-dot-and-cross-vector-products

https://www.nagwa.com/en/videos/903162413640/

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

This topic is talking about computing cross product of two vectors in three dimensions. First, students should have learned what a vector is. Second, students should know how to represent vectors and points in space and how to distinguish vectors and points. Notice that when students try to write the vector in space, they need to use the arrow. Next, since we are talking about how to distinguish the vectors and the points, here students should learn the notations of vectors and what each notation means. For example, $\vec{v} = 1{\bf i} + 2 {\bf j} + 3 {\bf k}$. Notice that $1{\bf i} + 2 {\bf j} + 3 {\bf k}$ represents the vectors in three dimensions. After understanding the definition of the vectors, students are going to learn how to do the operation of vectors. They start with doing the addition and scalar multiplication, and magnitude. One more thing that students should learn before learning the cross product which is the dot product. However, students should understand and master how to do the vector operation before they learn the dot product since the dot product is not easy. Students should have learned these concepts and do practices to make sure they are familiar with the vector before they learn the cross products.

References:

How did people’s conception of this topic change over time?

Most people have the misconception that the cross product of two vectors is another vector. Also, the majority of calculus textbooks have the same misconception that the cross product of two vectors is just simply another vector. However, as time goes on, mathematicians and scientists can explain by starting from the perspective of dyadic instead of the traditional short‐sighted definition. Also, we can represent the multiplication of vectors by showing it in a geometrical picture to prove that encompasses both the dot and cross products in any number of dimensions in terms of orthogonal unit vector components. Also, by using the way that the limitation of such an entity to exactly a three‐dimensional space does not allow for one of the three metric motions (reflection in a mirror). We can understand that the intrinsic difference between true vectors and pseudo‐vectors.

Reference:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0020739970280407

# Engaging students: Deriving the proportions of a 45-45-90 right 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 comes from my former student Morgan Mayfield. His topic, from Geometry: deriving the proportions of a 45-45-90 right triangle.

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

I included a lesson plan from Virgina Lynch of Oklahoma Panhandle State University. In her lesson plan, she includes a section where students draw a 45-45-90 triangle, or right-isosceles triangles, and then uses the variable x for the leg lengths to prove the proportion for students. Then, she uses a section where she has students cut out actual 45-45-90 triangles with 4-in leg lengths. Each student measures their hypotenuse to some degree of accuracy and reports their length. Lastly, Ms.Lynch averages the lengths and has students divide the average by root 2 on a calculator to show that the answer is incredibly close to 4.

My likes: These are two different styles of proving the 1:1:root 2 proportions of a triangle for students: one mathematical and the other more deductive after knowing the mathematical proof. This provides students with an auditory, tactile, and visual way to understand the proportion of the side lengths. I think that the tactile part can be the biggest thing for students. Rarely do we end up building a triangle and measuring its sides to show that this relationship makes rough sense in the real world.

My adaptation: In a geometry class, I would find the mathematical proof to be a fun exercise for students to flex their understanding of algebra, geometry, and the Pythagorean theorem. I would group students up and probably help them start connecting the algebra portion by giving them the leg length “x” and saying I want to know the length of the hypotenuse in exact terms. Group members can collaborate and use their collective knowledge to apply the understanding that a 45-45-90 triangle is isosceles and right, then use the Pythagorean theorem to find the length of the hypotenuse in terms of x.

Then, I would have some groups cut out 45-45-90 triangles of some leg length and other groups cut out 45-45-90 triangles of some other leg length to have more variety, but still show the root 2 proportion in our physical environment.

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

45-45-90 triangles are very helpful in understanding the unit circle. This may be taught at the geometry level or in precalculus. In a unit circle, our radius is 1, so when we want to know the sine or cosine of 45 degrees or $45+ \pi/2$, then we can apply the relationship that we already know about 45-45-90 triangles. So, on the unit circle, build a right triangle where the hypotenuse connects the center to the circumference of the circle at a 45-degree angle from the x-axis. Since the triangle is both right and has one 45-degree angle, we know the other angle is 45 degrees as well. This should immediately invoke the sacred root 2 ratio, but this time we only know the length of the hypotenuse, which is 1, which is the radius. Thus, we divide the radius, 1, by root 2, and then get rid of the root 2 from the denominator to get $\sqrt{2}/2$ for both legs. Lastly, we apply our knowledge of sine and cosine to understand that sine of an angle in a right triangle, that is not the right angle, is the “length of the opposite side over the hypotenuse”, which is just $\sqrt{2}/2$ because we have the convenience of being in a unit circle.

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

The basis for understanding a 45-45-90 triangle takes its understanding from 8th grade math when students are introduced to the Pythagorean theorem and the beginning of the geometry course when students cover identities of isosceles triangles, mostly from a Euclid perspective. Even before that, students learn other basic things about triangles such as the interior angles add up to 180 degrees and that a right triangle has a 90-degree angle.

This is how students connect the three Euclid book I propositions: 5, 6, and 47. Students learn that from propositions 5 and 6 in a geometry class, isosceles triangles have two sides of equal length which imply the angles between those equal sides and the third sides are equal and vice-versa. So, a 45-45-90 triangle implies that it has two equal sides, which are the legs of the right triangle. Now, we apply proposition 47, the Pythagorean theorem because this is a right triangle, to then show algebraically the hypotenuse is $x\sqrt{2}$ where $x$ is the length of one of the legs.

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

I find the topic of “Dynamic Rectangles” and “Dynamic Symmetry” very fascinating. This is frequently used in art, usually in drawing, painting, and photography. Jay Hambridge formalized the idea that classical art used Dynamic Symmetry which includes the ratio of 1:. This ratio is usually built inside of a rectangle or square to give very interesting, symmetrical focal points within a piece that could not be achieved within just any regular rectangle. The photothunk blog below details how the diagonals of the dynamic rectangles and the perpendiculars to the diagonals form a special symmetry that is lost when used in a rectangle that doesn’t have the 1:$\sqrt{x}$ ratio. For example, I’ve included a piece of art by Thomas Kegler and a Youtube analysis of the piece of art that uses Root 2 Dynamic Symmetry.

What does this mean for the 45-45-90 triangles? Well, to build these dynamic rectangles, we must start off with a square. Think about the diagonal of a square. When we form this diagonal, we form a right triangle with two 45-degree angles. All squares are two 45-45-90 triangles. Now, using the length of the diagonal, which we know mathematically to be $x\sqrt{2}$ where $x$ is the length of one of the legs, we can build our dynamic rectangle and then build other dynamic rectangles because $1^2 + (\sqrt{x})^2 = x+1$ . I’ve included a diagram I made in Geogebra to show off a way to build the root 2 dynamic rectangle using just circles and lines.

Starting with a square ABCD, we can place two circles with centers C and D and radii AC. Why AC? This is because AC is the diagonal of the square, which we know to be $x\sqrt{2}$ where $x$ is the length of one of the sides of the square. Now, we know our radii is equal to $x\sqrt{2}$. We can extend the sides of our square CB and DA to find the intersection points of the circles and the extended lines E and F. Now, all we must do is connect E to F and voila, we have a root 2 dynamic rectangle FECD.

How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?

This answer will be my most speculative answer using concepts of the 45-45-90 triangles. First, I must ask the reader to suspend the round world belief and act that we live on a relatively flat plane of existence. Our societies have been build around organizing land into rectangular and square shaped pieces of land. I will talk about the “Are” system which has shaped a lot of Western Europe and the Americas due to colonization by the European powers. You may have heard the term “hectare”, which is still popular in the United States. It is literally a mash up of the words “hecto-”, coming from Greek and meaning one-hundred and “are”, coming from Latin and meaning area. So, this is 100 ares, which is a measure of land that is 10 meters x 10 meters. That means a hectare is 100 meters x 100 meters.

Well, one would imagine that with Greek, Latin, and Western European obsession with symmetry, we would want to split these square pieces of land in half with many different diagonals, so it must have been useful to understand the proportions of the 45-45-90 triangle to makes paths and roads that travel from one end of the hectare to the other end efficiently while also utilizing the space and human travel within the hectare efficiently. Again, this is my speculation, but knowing that two 45-45-90 triangles form a square means that all squares and symmetry involve using this 1:$\sqrt{2}$ ratio; they are inseparable.

References:

https://ipoxstudios.com/the-simplicity-and-beauty-of-dynamic-symmetry-visual-glossary/

http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2016/03/dynamic-symmetry-and-jay-hambridge.html

http://www.opsu.edu/www/education/MATH-ESE%204%20ALL/Virginia%20Lynch/Special%20Right%20Triangles-%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf

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

# 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 Gary Sin. His topic, from Geometry: deriving the Pythagorean theorem.

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

The Pythagorean Theorem is an extremely important topic in mathematics that is useful even when after the students graduate high school and proceed to college. As a student majoring in mathematics, I always like to explore the fundamental proofs of different theorems; I feel that if the student is able to derive a formula or theorem; it displays mastery over a mathematical topic.

As such, I will have the students work with a geometrical proof of the theorem. The students will be given 4 triangles with sides a, b, and c, and a square with sides c. I will instruct the students to fidget with the shapes and allow them to explore the different combinations that might lead to the theorem. As the class slowly figures out what combinations work, I will provide algebraic hints to the proof of the theorem. (including $(a+b)^2$ and $c^2$).

Finally, once a majority of the students figure out the geometric proof of the theorem; I will recap and reiterate the different findings of the students and summarize the geometric proof of the theorem.

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

Pythagorean Theorem is extremely useful when beginning geometry, it applies to all right triangles and one could use it too to find the area of regular polgyons as they are also made up of right triangles. The surface area and volumes of pyramids, triangular prisms also rely on the theorem. Another major topic in geometry is trigonometry, where the trigonometric ratios are introduced and they are also based on right triangles. The Law of Cosines is also derived from the theorem. The theorem is also used in the distance formula between 2 points on the Cartesian plane.

The theorem is also used in Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Complex numbers uses it (similar to the distance formula). The basis of the unit circle and converting Cartesian coordinates to polar coordinates or vice versa also utilizes the theorem. The fundamental trigonometric identity is also derived from the theorem. Cross products of vectors uses the theorem, the theorem can also be seen in Calculus 3 in 3 dimensional geometry and finding volumes of various shapes because the theorem still applies to planes.

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

The theorem uses algebra to represent unknown sides in a right triangle. The students should have also learned about the names of the different sides on a right triangle, namely the legs and the hypotenuse. Being able to identify which side is the hypotenuse is very important in understanding and applying this theorem. Additionally, the students must be able to recognize what a right angle is which will determine if a triangle is a right triangle or not.

Deriving the theorem requires knowledge on the multiplication of polynomials, and how they are factored out. The students also use powers of 2 in the theorem and should be aware of how to square 2 integers and what the product is equal to. In the case of a non Pythagorean triple, the student must be able to manipulate radicals and simplify them accordingly.

Finally, the student must be able to identify what variables are provided and know what unknown they have to solve for. The variables and unknown side requires basic knowledge on how algebra works and how to use equations and manipulate them accordingly to solve for an unknown.

# Happy Pythagoras Day!

Happy Pythagoras Day! Today is 12/16/20 (or 16/12/20 in other parts of the world), and $12^2 + 16^2 = 20^2$.

# 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 Haley Higginbotham. Her topic, from Geometry: deriving the Pythagorean theorem.

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

An interesting hands-on activity would be to do a visual proof of Pythagorean Theorem by using just paper, scissors, a ruler, and a pencil. Starting with a square piece of paper, the students will make a square with a length in the bottom left corner and a square of b length in the upper right hand corner, similar to the picture below on the right-hand side. Then the students would cut out the squares, and end up with two squares and two rectangles. The students would then be instructed to cut the both rectangles along their diagonals. Then the challenge is to make a square that contains a square inside by only using the triangles they have cut out. The level of difficult of the challenge will depend on the grade level and on the caliber of students, but it’s still more interesting than writing out a formal proof. Then after everyone has made something similar to the picture below on the left-hand side, I would ask them if they know why this proves the Pythagorean Theorem. If a student has a good explanation, I would ask them to demonstrate their explanation to the rest of the class. If no one figures it out, I would suggest they label the different lengths and see if they figure it out then.

How has this topic appeared in high culture?

The Pythagoras tree is a fractal constructed using squares that are arranged to form right triangles. Fractals are very popular for use in art since the repetitive pattern is very aesthetically pleasing and fairly easy to replicate, especially using technology. The following picture is an example of a Pythagoras tree sculpture extended into 3 dimensions. There is also the Pythagorean snail, which is constructed by making isosceles right triangles in a circular pattern, keeping the smallest leg of each triangle the same size. With this basic design, you can create a variety of designs, an example is pictured below. Even though the base is a bunch of triangles in a spiral, the design overlaid on top of it takes it from purely mathematical to a piece of art. Of course, one could argue that mathematics itself is an art, but the general population would agree that the design really makes it a work of art.

How can technology be used?

I think I would use Desmos to extend the activity described in A2, since they have seen it works for their particular choice of a and b, but they might not see how it works for all choices of a and b (as long as the triangles they have are right triangles). By using Desmos, I can use an activity that allows students to drag the different sides to see that the relationship holds no matter how a and b change. I think something similar to this activity would work: https://teacher.desmos.com/activitybuilder/custom/5adc7bfced2ada678516940e, except I would modify it so it was closer to the activity that we did with paper during class. I would also show them the other explanation of the squares aligned with the lines of the triangles. It’s great because Desmos has activities that you can use but you can also customize the activities however you want to fit your specific ideas. You could also ‘code’ from scratch your own activity.

# 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 Julie Thompson. Her topic, from Geometry: deriving the Pythagorean theorem.

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

I believe the best way to convince students that a certain theorem is true is to model it visually. Luckily, the Pythagorean Theorem has several ways to derive it and show that it works. My favorite is showing it with squares. You ask students to consider the numbers 3, 4, and 5. Given paper, ask them to create three squares with each of those dimensions. Then, see if they can form a right triangle out of the three squares they made. Next, ask them if they can find a way to make two squares fit exactly into another square (cutting the squares up if necessary). Hopefully, they will get the squares with dimensions 3 and 4 to fit into the biggest square. Finally, ask them to write a conjecture about what they find. It turns out that the two smaller squares fit perfectly into the bigger square, or, more mathematically, 32+42=52. Generally, a2+b2=c2

I did the activity myself and it is pictured below:

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

Students learn how to derive the Pythagorean Theorem in Geometry. However, they should have prior knowledge on square numbers, finding the area of a square, and simple algebraic equations. Students should also be able to solve equations and evaluate expressions when given values for the variables. The students will then be able to use all of this prior knowledge and apply it to one fantastic theorem: The Pythagorean Theorem. They can then use the theorem to find missing side lengths of a triangle. This extends their prior knowledge because they are now using their mathematical skills and applying it to the real world.

An example of this extension would be assigning this problem to my students: Think about your rectangular room at home. We want to estimate the length of the diagonal from corner to corner. Estimate that length to 3 decimal places. Then create a model to show why it is true, using the area of squares proof (from my A2 activity). The students are using their prior knowledge of square numbers, area of squares, and solving equations for this problem.

What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery?

Pythagoras contributed greatly to the discovery of the Pythagorean Theorem (clearly it is named after him). ”It is sometimes claimed that we owe pure mathematics to Pythagoras, and he is often called the first “true” mathematician.” We think of him as having been a very logical man, but he had some very weird, illogical beliefs as well. According to the article, “Pythagoras imposed odd rules on all the members of his school (including bizarre and apparently random edicts about never urinating towards the sun, never marrying a woman who wears gold jewelry, never passing an ass lying in the street, never eating or even touching black fava beans, etc.”

The Pythagoreans (Pythagoras and his followers) discovered something very interesting about the number 10. Today, when we wonder why we use base 10, we attribute it to the simple fact that we have ten fingers and ten toes. Our ten fingers are what we use to count with. Pythagoras deemed 10 to be a very special number, but for a more abstract reason. You can form an equilateral triangle with rows of 4, 3, 2 and 1. Altogether this triangle contains 10 points. He called it the tetractys. And 10 was thought to be a very holy number. Of course, he is most known for this theorem. “it has become one of the best-known of all mathematical theorems, and as many as 400 different proofs now exist, some geometrical, some algebraic, some involving advanced differential equations, etc.”

REFERENCES:

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

# The Pythagorean theorem to five decimal places

Piers Morgan, mathematician extraordinaire:

I don’t know how to begin describing how his attempt at insulting the intelligence of one of the Love Island evictees went horribly wrong.

# Engaging students: Vectors in two dimensions

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 McCall. Her topic, from Precalculus: vectors in two dimensions.

What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

For such an applicable topic, I believe that it is beneficial to have students see how this might apply to their lives and to real world problems. I selected the following word problems because they are challenging, but I think it is necessary for students to be a little frustrated initially so that they are able to learn well and remember what they’ve learned.

1. A DC-10 jumbo jet maintains an airspeed of 550 mph in a southwesterly direction. The velocity of the jet stream is a constant 80 mph from the west. Find the actual speed and direction of the aircraft.

2. The pilot of an aircraft wishes to head directly east, but is faced with a wind speed of 40 mph from the northwest. If the pilot maintains an airspeed of 250 mph, what compass heading should be maintained? What is the actual speed of the aircraft?

3. A river has a constant current of 3 kph. At what angle to a boat dock should a motorboat, capable of maintaining a constant speed of 20 kph, be headed in order to reach a point directly opposite the dock? If the river is ½ a kilometer wide, how long will it take to cross?

Because these problems are difficult, students would be instructed to work together to complete them. This would alleviate some frustrations and “stuck” feelings by allowing them to ask for help. Ultimately, talking through what they are doing and successfully completing challenging problems will take students to a deeper level of involvement with their own learning.

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

I believe vectors are fairly easy to teach because there are so many real life applications of vectors. However, it can be difficult to get students initially engaged. For this activity, I would have students work in groups to complete a project inspired by Khan Academy’s videos on vector word problems. Students would split off into groups and watch each of the three videos on Khan Academy that have to do with applications of vectors in two dimensions. Using these videos as an example, students will be instructed to come up with a short presentation or video that teaches other students about vectors in two dimensions using real world applications and examples.

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

Immediately when I see vectors, I think of one specific movie quote from my late childhood that I’ll always remember. The villain named Vector from Despicable Me who “commits crimes with both direction AND magnitude” is a fellow math nerd and is therefore one of my favorite Disney villains of all time. So of course, I had to find the clip (linked below) because I think it is absolutely perfect for engaging students in a lesson about vectors as soon as they walk in the door, and it is memorable and educational. I would refer back to this video several times throughout the lesson and in future lessons because it is a catchy way to remember the two components to vectors. This would also be great to kick off a unit on scalars and vectors, because it would get kids laughing and therefore engaged, plus they will always remember the difference between a scalar and a vector (direction AND magnitude!).

References: