# 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 Fidel Gonzales. His topic, from Precalculus: vectors in two dimensions. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics?

When a student learns about vectors in two dimensions, they worry about the magnitude of the vector and the direction that it goes. The direction is kept within its limitations which are up, down, left, and right. A student might be curious as to how this topic can be extended further. The way it extends further is by extending vectors into higher dimensions. It is even possible to extend vectors to the sixth dimension! However, for the sake of showing how vectors in two dimensions extend to future courses in math, we will stick to three-dimensions. Learning about vectors in the second dimension creates groundwork to learn about vectors in the third dimension. With the third dimension, vectors could be seen from our point of view compared to seeing it in the two dimensions on paper. The new perspective of the third dimension in vectors includes up, down, left, right, forward, and backwards. Having the new dimension to account for will give students a bigger tie into how mathematics applies into the real world. How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

Vectors in the two dimension is used all around our everyday life and we as people rarely notice it. The most common use of vectors in our culture is a quantity displaying a magnitude and direction. This is normally done on a x and y graph. Now you might be asking yourself, I do not play any types of games that sound like this. I am here to tell you that you do. One game that iPhone users play without noticing this would be a game on gamepigeon called knockout. The game appears to be an innocent game of knocking out your friends’ penguins while keeping yours in the designated box. However, math is involved, and you probably didn’t notice. First you must anticipate where the enemy is going. Then you must decide how strong you want to launch your penguin troopers without making them fall out of the ring. Does that sound familiar? Having to apply a force (magnitude) and direction to a quantity. Congratulations, you have now had fun doing math. Next time you are playing a game, try to see if there is any involvement of vectors in two dimensions involved. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Vectors in two dimensions has many ways to be incorporated in the classroom. A way to do so while connecting to the real world would be having an activity where the students tell a robot where to go using vectors. The students will have a robot that can walk around and in need of directions. The students will be given maps and asked to create a path for the robot to end up in its destination. Essentially, programming the robot to navigate though a course solely using vectors. If the robot falls or walks too far, then the student will realize that either the magnitude was wrong or the direction. Some students might seem to think this would be impractical to the real world, however, there is always a way to show relevance to students. Towards the end of the activity, the students will be asked to guide me to around the class using vectors. Then to sweeten the deal, they will also be asked to show me on a map being projected to them how to get to McDonald’s. Students will realize that vectors in the second dimension could be used to give directions to somewhere and can be applied to everyday life.  They will walk outside of the classroom seeing math in the real world from a different perspective.

References:

# 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: 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 Ashlyn Farley. Her topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a right triangle. Music is a large part of entertainment in today’s society, thus bringing in music to the classroom can help students relate to the material more. There have been studies that shows music activates both the left and right brain, which can maximize learning and improve memory. Along with the fact that it’s easier to memorize lyrics to a song than a fact, music-based learning can be engaging and impactful. It’s the same reason why musicians put a hook in their songs; brains look for patterns to better understand and process information. For the area of a triangle there are two examples, one is a rap by PBS, “Area of a Triangle Musically Interpreted,” the other is a pop parody, “Half It Baby.” By having multiple types of songs, students who have a variety of musical interest can each make a personally connection, and having a parody makes memorizing the lyrics even easier since the students will already have a reference of the melody in their brains. These songs, and other types, can be found on YouTube. Origami is heavily based in geometry, so many lessons, such as finding area, can be created. One activity that could be engaging for the students, and have the students find the area of a triangle themselves, is with origami. The idea is that the students will create their own origami figures, after taking the area of the paper they are working with. After folding the shape, the students are to find the area of each shape, which should add up to be to total of the paper. Therefore, this project, applies the ideas of finding the area of a triangle, and finding the area of composite figures. Since origami is mainly quadrilaterals and triangles, the students are using what they know and see to figure out what the triangles’ areas equal. Because the students get to choose the origami figures, the material becomes personalized by their choices. However, this can be a difficult task if not scaffolded correctly, thus the teacher should take precautions. Done correctly, this project can be done as PBL if desired, not just group work. Finding the area of a triangle, as well as many other shapes, is very important in architecture. However, architecture, and its designers, have very different understandings of the triangle’s meaning. A basis for all architecture, is the fact that triangles are common because the design and symmetry aid in distributing weight. Some examples of famous long-standing triangles in architecture are the Egyptian pyramids, The east Building in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Hearst Tower in Manhattan, the Louve in France, and the Flatiron Building in New York City. Some of these designs are using triangles as support, while others are used for decoration. However, according to Feng Shui, the triangle should be avoided, both in terms of architecture and interior design. The triangle is associated to fire energy which is chaotic energy. When triangles are used, they should point upward, implying the upward movement of energy. As seen, there are many times that the area of triangle is needed in architecture.

Resources:

# 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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). 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.

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