Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Like Geometry? Eucliding Me, Right?

Geometry wasn’t my best subject in school. In fact, I pretty much loathed it at the time. Perhaps it was because the class was scheduled after lunch, in an overly-heated room that induced a mouth-slackening torpor within minutes. The geometry teacher had the unfortunate belief that lectures were the only effective teaching method, and he obligingly droned on daily from his desk in the corner. Occasionally, to vary the lesson, he’d stand up. My classmates and I – usually excellent students – struggled against waves of drowsiness, our heads bobbing like too-heavy flowers on thin stalks as we’d start to drift, then jerk awake. Occasionally, one of us would lose the battle and doze off. The teacher, without missing a beat in his lecture, would quietly rise from his desk, glide behind the blissfully sleeping offender, and drop an enormous dictionary on the floor. Did I mention that I loathed geometry?

Fortunately, times have changed. Teachers illustrate geometrical concepts with hands-on activities, real-life examples, and varied methods of instruction. My kids have come home with math assignments that required them to measure the dimensions of a room to calculate how many gallons of paint it would take to coat the walls twice, constructed buildings out of craft sticks using various required geometrical shapes, and other types of problems. They still learn theorems and solve proofs, of course, but there is much more interaction in class and examples given of how these concepts are used everyday in the real world. For some kids, the gap between what they learn in some academic subjects and how – or if – they will ever apply this knowledge as adults can be a major component of their buying into learning the material in the first place, and answers the question “but when will I ever use this? Does anyone ever use the Pythagorean theorem after graduation??”

My picks this week focus on resources that expose students to geometry in unconventional ways. Math teachers already have effective methods of teaching geometrical proofs and theorems, and I want to offer something a little off the beaten path. These creative, hands-on geometry activities will hopefully capture student interest, and make geometry a little more palatable to those students who don’t see the value in learning geometry. I’ll also be featuring many more lessons, activities, and other resources on geometry throughout the week on our our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to check in to view them.

Origami Cricket
Subjects: Geometry
Grade: 4-12
This is a neat activity that reinforces right triangle theorems. Students fold paper into various angles and triangles to form origami crickets, then flip them over to make the crickets jump. This activity is offered by The Math Forum, and was written by geometry teacher Cathleen V. Sanders.

The Building Blocks of Geometry
Subjects: Geometry
Grade: 3-5
In this hands-on activity, students explore geometric building blocks in the real world in order to describe the characteristics and relationships of points, lines, line segments, rays, and planes. Students build honeycombs, use geoboards, and other materials to illustrate geometric concepts. This activity is presented by Beacon Learning Center, an online professional development center that offers lesson plans and other educational resources. This activity is aligned to both state and national standards.

Ken Burns American Stories: Baseball Geometry
Subject: Geometry
Grade: 6-12
What do baseball and geometry have in common? More than you think! In this hands-on activity, students examine the surface area of baseballs, make imprints of them in clay to analyze the footprint, and corroborate their findings by calculating the ball’s circumference, diameter, and surface area. The activity also offers a quiz and hands-on extension activity. This resource was produced by PBS, which offers many educational resources and activities for educators tied to PBS programming. This activity is aligned to national math standards.

~Joann's Picks - 10/12/2010~


  1. Geometry was a hard nut for me to crack as well, thank you for these great lessons at each level that will change that for our students :)

  2. Unfortunately, I still don't like geometry. As educators, we can't underestimate the lasting effects that we - and the way we teach - have on our students.


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