Thursday, January 9, 2014

What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?

It's a new semester at Mesquite High School, and I started it off by visiting six geometry classes and sharing What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Jullie Ellis.

On our first day back from the break, I was sitting in on a meeting with the geometry teacher and our campus technology facilitator. They were discussing ways to incorporate iPads into a lesson on the Pythagorean Theorem. I remembered hearing about a picture book about the Pythagorean Theorem, and the teacher was open to me coming into her classroom and sharing the book as a hook to the lesson. Since our library did not have a copy, I borrowed one from one of our feeder elementary schools.

I began the lesson with a quick clip from NBC Learn about how the Pythagorean Theorem relates to football. The students enjoyed seeing a "real world" connection between geometry and sports. This was perfect timing because the National Championship game between Auburn and FSU had just occurred the night before, so I was able to show a clip from that game that illustrated how "the angle of pursuit" can change the outcome of a game. (You can watch the video at the bottom of the page: Keep your eye on #28, the defender for Auburn, who misses the "angle." If you have watched Auburn's miraculous season this year, you will understand why this is football karma at work.)

Honestly, I was a bit worried about how the students would respond to this book because I did something different this time; I  arranged the lesson before I actually read the book, which I don't advise. With most picture book lessons, I have a high-interest book in mind that I try to match to a subject or class, but this was not the case. When I read the book for the first time (after I had already set up the lesson), I thought, "Oh no. This is cheesy, and they might not like it." But I thought that the football clips might engage them, and I was right. Even though the book has some lame "right angle" jokes in it, the students still enjoyed the novelty of listening to a picture book in math class, and I was pleasantly surprised at how they responded. At the conclusion, they "turned and talked" to a partner about what they learned from the book. As I walked around the room listening to the conversations, I was able to tell that they learned what the Pythagoreum Theorem is, who discovered it, and how.

Overall, this is not the most compelling picture book that I've ever read aloud, but it worked. 

Here is the video clip from the National Championship game. Remember to keep you eye on Auburn's #28:

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