As I was sitting in class on Tuesday, I began to look at the calendar. This isn’t something I’ve had a chance to do much this semester, as I usually focus on what’s happening week to week rather than looking at the bigger picture (and let’s be honest, I’m avoiding the giant projects due at the end of the semester). So as I’m sitting in class filling in my planner with all of my assignment due dates, I decide to count up the number of weeks we have left. FOUR. FOUR WEEKS. THAT’S IT. Excluding Spring Break, we only have four weeks of classes left. That is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I am also extremely sad to be leaving my students in such a short period of time. Although I have only been with them for two and a half months, I have grown very attached. Anyway, that’s not what this blog post is supposed to be about and I’m getting all sentimental, so let’s move on. The point is, the semester has flown by, and without even realizing it I have compiled a collection of awesome activities that I can’t wait to use in my future classroom. I decided to create one this week that dealt with exploring the Pythagorean Theorem. I had heard about a jelly bean activity on Pinterest, so I decided to tweak it a little to fit my classroom setting. It went really well, and the students thought it was pretty cool. Plus, they got candy, and what middle-schooler doesn’t love that?
My goal behind this activity was to get the students to derive the formula for the Pythagorean Theorem on their own, and by doing this, extend their retention rate of the formula. The activity allows them to see the formula visually represented as well as numerically. By using multiple representations, my goal was to allow diverse learners to all get something out of the lesson and understand the formula as well as its application. Here are some pictures from the activity:
I asked the students to see how many whole M&Ms fit on the sides of each triangle. I labeled the sides a, b, and c. I then had the students find the squares of a, b, and c, as well as the sum a2 + b2 . The students recognized that this was equal to c2, so it was easy for them to derive the formula from this.
We have done quite a few “quick-proofs,” as I like to call them, at my placement and I can not stress enough how beneficial I believe it has been for the students. When they come up with formulas on their own, they are so much more likely to not only remember the formulas but also understand the underlying concepts and the actual math that these formulas come from. I will continue to do this in my future classroom to help my students get a deeper conceptual understanding of the math they are doing before they become procedurally fluent. If I can throw some chocolate in here and there, even better.
“Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuffed with the facts.”