Engaging students: Finding the area of a 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 again comes from my former student Trenton Hicks. His topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a right triangle.

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As an engagement activity, give students the following problem: “A rectangle has dimensions of base: b and height: h. How many different ways can you cut this rectangle in half with a straight line? How many shapes can you make from the different ways you cut the rectangle in half? Now out of those, which shapes are not rectangles?”

This will leave only two different ways to cut the rectangle in half, yielding identical triangles on either side of the line. Now, ask the students, “From what we’ve already learned about rectangles, what would be the area of this rectangle?” After confirming the area is base times height, wait a few moments before saying anything else. Now that the students are thinking about the base, they will now start to make predictions about the triangles that we’ve just made and their areas. Have them write their guesses for the formula of the triangle down on a piece of paper, and keep them to the side through the lesson. From here, we can break them up into groups and give them 3 right triangles to solve for the area, and one equilateral triangle to solve for the area. Go through the answers together and compare groups’ answers, as well as their predictions on what the area of a triangle is.  The odds are, many groups will be stuck once they get to the equilateral triangle. If so, you may want to send them back to their groups to try and find the area, giving them the hint, that they may have to make new shapes, just as they did with our rectangle at the beginning. This lesson assumes that the students understand the pythagorean theorem so they can solve for the height of an equilateral triangle by making a new triangle. This way, the students can explore the phenomena of triangles’ area, and see if they can recognize that the height isn’t always a side of the triangle, but rather something they may have to solve for.

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The students should be able to use similar techniques to find the area of a parallelogram, trapezoids, and other shapes, as these shapes are partially composed of triangles. As students progress to more complex 2-dimensional shapes, you can derive formulas as you go. As you move onto 3-dimensional shapes, we actually see lots of different triangles appear in the shapes’ respective nets. For instance, when computing the surface area of a triangular prism, we need to know how to compute the area of the base. We also see this same idea in computing volumes of triangular prisms, where we need to know the area of the triangular base. This is also applicable to pyramids, tetrahedrons, and octahedrons. Finally, these ideas are brought up again later in trigonometry where we can determine different parts of the formula with trigonometric ratios and functions and whenever the students learn Heron’s formula.

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This concept of finding the area of a triangle expands many things that the students may already know. This won’t be the students’ first time seeing a triangle, nor will it be the first time they compute the area. Overall, this content should be a refresher and not new to the students. However, this may be the first time that the students are presented a rectangle and told to make a triangle out of it. From that point, they are told to make conclusions about the triangle’s area based on the rectangles area. As students think through this, they are using logic and reasoning to argue what makes geometric sense to one another. This further develops their mathematical reasoning skills, which may be a bit rusty since we far too often focus on the “what” and not the “why” and “how.”

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 Jesus Alanis. His 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?

The way you as a teacher can create an activity for defining angles is with Snowing Angles. The way you could start this lesson is by explaining that right angles are 90 degrees, acute angles are less than 90 degrees, and obtuse angles are greater than 90 degrees. Then make students get 3 different color markers to label the different types of angles. On this website, there is a worksheet that has different snowflakes. On the worksheet, you would get students to use a protractor(you are going to have to teach students how to use a protractor) to measure the angles so that students get to determine what kind of angle it is and use the marker to mark the type of angle it is.

Once students are done with the worksheet and understand the types of angles, they can start building their own snowflake. While the students get to building their snowflakes, you could ask students questions to get them thinking. Example: Is this a right angle or an acute angle? Something I would add to this project or activity would be to make sure that the students have at least one of each of the angles that were taught.

Also, this is a great project for the holidays and students get to take it home becoming a memory of what was taught in class.

https://deceptivelyeducational.blogspot.com/2012/12/its-snowing-angles.html

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

The use of angles in this lesson is for students to know about the name of angles which are acute, right, and obtuse. The importance that students need to take away is that students need to know what the degrees of the angles are. When they continue talking about angles students will realize that a straight line is 180 degrees. When given a missing angle either an acute angle or an obtuse angle you could realize that an acute angle plus an obtuse angle equals 180 degrees. Also, with 180 degrees, you could find an angle that is missing with enough information. Later with this fact, students will learn about the interior, exterior, supplementary, and commentary angles. Students will also use the knowledge of angles towards triangles and specifically right angles with using the Pythagorean Theorem. Later, trigonometry will be added to this idea. Angles would then be used for the Unit Circle.

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How has this topic appeared in high culture?

  • The way that angles are used in high culture is photography. Photography has become an appreciated form of art. Angles are literally everywhere. For example, if you look at the cables on bridges or the beams that hold building form angles. Also by using your camera you could use angles to take pictures a certain way whether if you want to take a straight picture of your city or it could be at an angle to make the building looks a certain way.
  • Also, angles are used in cinematography. The way the camera is angled plays a major role in the film process. Cameras are angled to help the viewers feel a part of the journey that the character is experiencing. The angle helps provide the film with what the setting is like or how characters are moving in the film. The angles are there to make the experience more realistic. The angles are important because they provide the setting, the character’s storyline, or give a view of where the different character may be in the same scene. (https://wolfcrow.com/15-essential-camera-shots-angles-and-movements/)

References

  • Educational, Deceptively. “It’s Snowing Angles!” Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational, Deceptively Educational, 6 Dec. 2012, deceptivelyeducational.blogspot.com/2012/12/its-snowing-angles.html.
  • Wolfcrow By Sareesh. “15 Essential Camera Shots, Angles and Movements.” Wolfcrow, 2017, wolfcrow.com/15-essential-camera-shots-angles-and-movements/.

Engaging students: Using right-triangle trigonometry

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 Cody Luttrell. His topic, from Precalculus: using right-triangle trigonometry.

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A.1 Now that students are able to use right triangle trigonometry, there is many things that they can do. For example, they know how to take the height of buildings if needed. If they are standing 45 feet away from a building and they have to look up approximately 60 degrees to see the top of the building, they can approximate the height of the building by using what they know about right triangle trigonometry. Ideally, they would say that the tan(60 degree)= (Height of building)/(distance from building = 45). They can now solve for the height of the building. The students could also use right triangle trigonometry to solve for the elevation it takes to look at the top of a building if they know the distance they are from the building and the height of the building. It would be set up as the previous example, but the students would be using inverse cosine to solve for the elevation.

 

 

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A.2 An engaging activity and/or project I could do would be to find the height of a pump launch rocket. Let’s say I can find a rocket that states that it can travel up to 50 feet into the air. I could pose this problem to my students and ask how we can test to see if that is true. Some students may guess and say by using a measuring tape, ladder, etc. to measure the height of the rocket. I would then introduce right triangle trigonometry to the students. After a couple of days of practice, we can come back to the question of the height of the rocket. I could ask how the students could find the height of the rocket by using what we have just learned. Ideally, I would want to here that we can use tangent to find the height of the rocket. By using altimeters, I would then have the students stand at different distances from the rocket and measure the altitude. They would then compute the height of the rocket.

 

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D.1 In the late 6th century BC, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem. This states that in a right triangle, the distance of the two legs of a right triangle squared added together is equal to the distance of the hypotenuse squared (a^2+b^2=c^2). This actually was a special case for the law of cosines (c^2=a^2+b^2-2ab\cos(\theta)). By also just knowing 2 side lengths of a right triangle, one may use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve for the third side which will then in return be able to give you the six trigonometric values for a right triangle. The Pythagorean Theorem also contributes to one of the most know trigonometric identities, \sin^2 x+\cos^2 x=1. This can be seen in the unit circle where the legs of the right triangle are \sin x and \cos x and the hypotenuse is 1 unit long. Because Pythagoras gave us the Pythagorean Theorem, we were then able to solve more complex problems by using right triangle trigonometry.

 

Engaging students: Finding the area of a 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 again comes from my former student Andrew Cory. His topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a right triangle.

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

Finding the area of a right triangle opens up the door to all sorts of applications in the future. The next step is the Pythagorean theorem which is used constantly throughout many math courses. The study of right triangles also opens up the world of trigonometry with students will be using in nearly every math course they go on to take. Once knowledge is learned of right triangles, other triangles can be manipulated to look like right triangles, or to create right triangles within normal triangles. Triangles are even utilized when determining things about other shapes as well, such as dividing rectangles into 2 triangles and other manipulations. If they go on to pursue geometry further, the Pythagorean theorem is one of the first couple of theorems proved and used in book 1 of Euclid.

 

 

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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?

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher that contributed to right triangles. He is credited with discovering possibly one of the most important right triangle properties. A legend says that after he discovered the Pythagorean theorem, he sacrificed an ox, or possibly an entire hecatomb, or 100 cattle, to the gods. The legitimacy of this legend is questioned because there is a widely held belief that he was against blood sacrifices. The Pythagorean theorem was known and used by Babylonians and Indians centuries before Pythagoras, but it is believed he was the first to introduce it to the Greeks. Some suggest that he was also the first to introduce a mathematical proof, however, some say this is implausible since he was never credited with proving any theorem in antiquity.

 

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

Applications such as Geogebra can be used for any type of geometry activity. It is a great way to help kids visualize what is happening with shapes in geometry, something that is usually a struggle for students. For helping students understand how to find the area of a right triangle, it can easily be shown that if you take a rectangle, or a square, and cut it in half diagonally, you get two right triangles. And since the area of a right triangle is half of the area of a rectangle or square. The various ways that shapes can be manipulated virtually can be a big help for students that learn in different ways. Being able to view shapes in different ways opens doors for students who traditionally struggle seeing a shape in their head, and using it to solve their problems.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras#In_mathematics

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 Johnny Aviles. His topic: how to engage geometry students when defining the words acute, right, and obtuse.

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A1.) How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

To have the students get engaged with the topic of Defining the terms acute, right, and obtuse, I will begin with having the classroom set up into groups of 4-5. Within their group they will create 10 examples of where each acute, right, and obtuse angles or triangles can be found in the classroom or in the real world in general. For example, the letter Y, end of a sharpened pencil, and the angle under a ladder can be used. They will be given about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast they can all finish. This is a great activity as the students can work together to try to come up with these examples and can familiarize themselves with amount of ways these terms are used in life. I will tell them before I begin the activity that the group that comes up with the most examples will be given extra credit in the next exam or quiz. This will give them extra incentive to stay on task as I am well aware that some groups may finish earlier than the rest and may take that extra time to cause disruptions.

 

 

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B1.) How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

In previous courses, students have learned had some exposure to these types of angles. Most students have been familiar with the use of right triangles and have learned methods like the Pythagorean theorem. When we extend the terms acute, right, and obtuse in geometry, it begins to be more intensified. These angles then extend in terms of triangle that will then have many uses. Students will then be expected to not only find missing side lengths but also angles. Students will then be exposed to methods later like, law of sines and cosines, special right triangles, triangle inequality theorem and triangle congruency in. This topic essentially is the stepping stone for a large part of what is soon to be learned. Other courses will use a variety of other was to incorporate the terms acute, right, and obtuse. Geometry, precalculus and trigonometry will essentially have a great deal of uses for these terms for starters and can then also be extended in many higher-level math courses in universities.

 

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

An effective way to teach this topic using technology and the terms acute, right, and obtuse would be games. There is a magnitude of game that involve angles and be beneficial in the understanding of these angles. I have found this one game called Alien Angles. In this game, you are given the angle of where the friendly alien at and you have to launch your rocket to rescue them. the purpose of the game is for students to be familiar with angles and how to find them. after you launch the rocket, you are given a protractor that shows the angles and I believe this is beneficial for students as they can also be more familiar with the application of protractors. I can post this on the promethean board and have students identify what the angle I need to rescue the aliens. I can then call for volunteers to go on the board and try to find the correct angle to launch the rocket.

https://www.mathplayground.com/alienangles.html

 

Engaging students: Using right-triangle trigonometry

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 Cameron Story. His topic, from Precalculus: using right-triangle trigonometry.

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

Most right-angle trigonometry word problems involve giving two measurements of a triangle (angle, sides or both) and asking the students to solve for the missing piece. I argue that these problems are fine for practice, but one has to admit these problems encourage “plugging and chugging” along with their formula sheets.

To make things interesting, I would use something along the lines of this word problem from purplemath.com:

“You use a transit to measure the angle of the sun in the sky; the sun fills 34′ of arc. Assuming the sun is 92,919,800 miles away, find the diameter of the sun. Round your answer to the nearest mile,” (Stapel, 2018).

This is incredible! Using trigonometry, students can find out the diameter of the entire sun just by knowing how far away it is and how much of the sky the sun takes up. If you were to use this word problem in a experimental type of project, I strongly recommend using the moon for measurement instead; you can probably guess why measuring the sun in the sky is a BAD idea.

 

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What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic?

One amazing culture to contribute to the study of triangles and trigonometry were the Ancient Babylonians, who lived in what is now Iraq about 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found clay tablets from 1800 BC where the Babylonians carved and recorded various formulas and geometric properties. There were several such tablets found to have been lists of Pythagorean triples, which are integer solutions to the famous equation a^2+b^2=c^2.

The Greeks, while going through their own philosophical and mathematical renaissance, gave the namesake for trigonometry. Melanie Palen, writer for the blog Owlcation, makes is very clear why trigonometry “… sounds triangle-y.”  The word trigonometry is derived from two Greek words – ‘trigonon’ which means ‘triangle’ and ‘metron’ meaning ‘measure.’ “Put together, the words mean “triangle measuring”” (Palen, 2018).

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

In the YouTube video “Tattoos on Math” by the YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown (link: https://youtu.be/IxNb1WG_Ido), Grant Sanderson offers a unique perspective on the six main trigonometric functions. In the video. Grant explains how his friend Cam has the initials CSC, which is how we notationaly represent the cosecant function. Not only is this engaging because most students wouldn’t even think of seeing tattoos in math class, but also because Grant always backs up the mathematical content in his videos with beautiful animations.

Students know how sine and cosine functions are represented geometrically; these are just the “legs” of a right-angled triangle. Most students, however, only see the other four trigonometric functions as formulas to be solved. However, as Grant cleverly explains and visualizes in this video, all of these functions have geometric representations as well when paired with the unit circle. This video (moreover, this entire YouTube channel) can be helpful to those visual-learning students who need more than a formula to be convinced of something like the cosecant function.

 

References:

3Blue1Brown YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/IxNb1WG_Ido

Palen, Melanie. “What Is Trigonometry? Description & History of Trig.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 25 July 2018, owlcation.com/stem/What-is-Trigonometry.

Stapel, Elizabeth. “Right-Triangle Word Problems.” Purplemath, 2018, http://www.purplemath.com/modules/rghtprob.html

Engaging students: Proving that two triangles are congruent using SAS

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 Phuong Trinh. Her topic, from Geometry: proving that two triangles are congruent using SAS.

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

Before learning how to prove that two triangles are congruent, the students learned about parts of a triangle, congruent segments, congruent angles, angle bisectors, midpoints, perpendicular bisectors, etc. These are some of the tools, if not all, that will aid them in proving two triangles are congruent. The basis of proving two triangles are congruent using SAS is to be able to identify the congruent sides and the congruent angles. That is where their knowledge of congruent segments and angles provide them the information they need. On other hands, not all problems of proving two triangles are congruent are straightforward with all the sides and angles needed are given to us. For example: Given a quadrilateral ABCD as shown below with AB = AD, and AC is the angle bisector of angle BAD. Prove that triangle ABC is congruent to triangle ADC. In this example, the problem did not clearly state what the congruent angles are. However, since the students have learned about what the angle bisector does to an angle, they can easily identify the congruent angles in this problem. Therefore, in order to successfully approach an exercise of proving two triangles are congruent using SAS, the students must first learn and understand the basics, which are parts of a triangle, angle bisectors, midpoints, etc.

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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?

There are many resources that provide great aid to students in learning about proving two triangles are congruent using SAS. One of them is from ck12.org. The layout of the website is simple and straightforward. The site provides readings and color coded study guide to help the students understand the material of the lesson, such as definitions and properties of congruent triangles. It also provides videos that work out and explain example problems. The videos could potentially be a great resource and aid for students that are visual and/or auditory learners.  On other hands, the site also gives other practices and activities that help the student estimate how well they understand the material. It is a great resource for not only the students but also the teacher. Under the activity tab, the teacher can find student submitted questions. These questions can be brought up in class for discussion to help the students further understand the topic. Besides materials on SAS triangle congruence, the site also has materials on other cases of triangle congruence. Hence, ck12.org can be used as an aid for students to prepare for the lesson, and/or review on the materials of the lesson.

https://www.ck12.org/geometry/sas-triangle-congruence/

 

 

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

A three-part activity:

Part 1: At the beginning of the class, I will give the students some cut-out triangles and ask them to find the congruent pair. During this part, the students can easily find the pair by putting the triangles on top of each other to compare the shape and sizes. This is to introduce the students to congruence triangles.

Part 2: The next part will be after I introduce proving triangle congruence by SAS. I will give the students a guide sheet with congruence triangle pairs placed at random places, with side lengths and angles provided. Just like at the beginning, the students must match up the pairs. However, since this time the students cannot move the triangles around, they must utilize the clues provided to them, which are the side lengths and angles, to get the correct answers. Example: Match the congruent pairs by SAS.

Part 3: The last part will be before the end of the lesson. The students will be given a figure and asked to prove the congruent triangles using SAS. However, one of the components necessary for SAS is missing and the students will need to use other provided information to solve the problem. Example:

Given a quadrilateral ABCD as shown below with AB = AD, and AC is the angle bisector of angle BAD. Prove that triangle ABC is congruent to triangle ADC.

Reference:

CK-12 Foundation. CK-12 Foundation, CK-12 Foundation, www.ck12.org/geometry/sas-triangle-congruence/.

 

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 Kelly Bui. 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 involves your topic?

As an activity, possibly the “exploration” part of the lesson, students will be paired in partners and the instructor will provide each pair with a different rectangle or square. The goal is to find the area of half of a rectangle.

The condition they must follow is that they cannot “draw” a straight line across the shape, they must “draw” a straight line starting from a corner. At some point, it should be evident that you can only draw a straight line from a corner to another corner. By drawing a diagonal line across the rectangle, they will now have two triangles (if that isn’t clear to them at this point, let them realize it on their own or go over it as a class at the end of the activity). Using rulers or meter sticks, they will have to discover on their own what the area of half of the rectangle is along with what the formula for that looks like. Most students will probably take the area of the entire rectangle and divide by 2. Once they come up with a formula for the area of half of a rectangle, it should look like A=1/2 bh, tell each student to raise half of the rectangle they cut, and announce: “congratulations, you have found the formula for the area of a triangle.”

 

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

Students begin to see the formula for the area of a triangle in 6th or 7th grade. They know the formula, but often times they don’t understand where it comes from. It can be useful for future homework/test problems that ask for the area of an irregular shape as well as in algebra with unknown lengths. These types of problems require students to think “outside of the box” in order to find the area of an irregular shape. It is not always evident that the irregular shape is simply made out of polygons.

Additionally, this topic will be useful when students are in algebra and they must solve for the area of a polygon that doesn’t have specific dimensions. For example, the trapezoid below has an unknown height as well as an unknown base. It is good for students to know how to apply the area formula of a triangle to solve for the dimensions as well as the area of the entire trapezoid itself. One important thing that should be stressed in the classroom is that formulas are extremely helpful on their own, but they’re even more helpful when they can be applied to different applications.

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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?

Most students know the formula A=1/2 bh for the area of a triangle, but many students don’t remember the formula used to find the area when all three side lengths are known. Heron’s Formula: √[s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c)] is briefly mentioned in geometry and is often not used in other math courses in high school. Along with his derivation of Heron’s formula, he contributed greatly to ancient society.
Heron of Alexandria was a Greek engineer and mathematician who was known mostly for his work with geometry. He was also a lecturer at the Library/Museum of Alexandria where he would meet with other scholars and discuss work. Additionally, he wrote Metrica, a series of three books which included his work on area and volumes of different types of figures.
It is no secret that Heron had a brilliant mind, and with his engineering and mathematics background, he was actually ahead of the industrial revolution that would take place centuries later. He invented the “Hero Engine, also known as the “aeolipile,” which was powered by steam. Essentially, Heron was the first inventor of the steam engine.
Another one of Heron’s inventions was the “wind wheel,” which is very similar to the modern windmill.

Students will already know that there were many breakthroughs during the industrial revolution, but some of the machines and inventions implemented in the 1800s were actually ideas that were invented centuries before.

Irregular Shape Image: http://www.softschools.com/math/geometry/topics/the_area_of_irregular_figures/

Trapezoid Image: http://www.dummies.com/education/math/geometry/how-to-calculate-the-area-of-a-trapezoid/

Heron of Alexandria: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Heron-of-Alexandria

Hero Engine (aeolipile): http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-technology/ancient-invention-steam-engine-hero-alexandria-001467

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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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:

  1. https://www.khanacademy.org/math/precalculus/vectors-precalc/applications-of-vectors/v/vector-component-in-direction
  2. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj42PaGqojXAhXKSiYKHTvLD8oQFgguMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jessamine.k12.ky.us%2Fuserfiles%2F1038%2FClasses%2F17195%2FVector%2520Word%2520Problems%2520Practice%2520Worksheet%25202.docx&usg=AOvVaw1IHTinEQtGK4Ww1_JkBhHf
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOIe0DIMbI8

Engaging students: Finding the area of a 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 again comes from my former student Deanna Cravens. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a right triangle.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?
One of the most common questions students ask when working with the area of a triangle is: “Why do I multiply by ½ in the formula?” It is a rather simple explanation for working with right triangles. Students could either do an explore activity where they discover the formula for the area of a right triangle, or a teacher could show this short two minute video in class.

So why do we multiply by ½? If we look at the formula ignoring the ½, you will see that it is the same formula for the area of a rectangle. Each angle in a rectangle forms 90 degrees and if we cut the rectangle along one of the diagonals, we will see that it creates a right triangle. Not only that, but it is exactly one half of the area of the rectangle since it was cut along the diagonal. Another way of showing this is doing the opposite by taking two congruent right triangles and rearranging them to create a rectangle. Either way shows how the ½ in the formula for the area of a right triangle appears and would be a great conceptual explore for students to complete.

 

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

Students are first introduced to finding the area of right triangle in their sixth grade mathematics class. One way that the topic is advanced in a high school geometry class is by throwing the Pythagorean Theorem into the mix. Students will know that formula for the area of a right triangle is A=½ bh. The way the topic is advanced is by giving the students the length of the hypotenuse and either the length of the base or the height, but not both. Students must use a^2 +b^2=c^2 in order to solve for the missing side length. The side lengths will not always be an integer, so students should be comfortable with working with square roots. Once students utilize the Pythagorean Theorem, they can then continue to solve for the area of the right triangle as they previously learned in sixth grade.

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

In this short music video young students at Builth Wells High School did a parody of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass.” They take the chorus and put the lyrics in “multiply the base, by the height, then half it.” This music video can help several different types of learners in the classroom. Some need a visual aid which is done by specific dance movements by the students in the video. Others will remember it by having the catchy chorus stuck in their head. The parody lyrics are also put on the video to help students who might struggle with English, such as ELL students. Plus, it is a good visual cue to have the lyrics on the screen so it makes it easier to learn. No doubt with this catchy song, students will leave the classroom humming the song to themselves and have connected it to finding the area of a triangle.

References: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHKaqXlki6w and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8HK9H9gNxs