As we swam through the complication of terms used to describe and classify angles and triangles, it became clear how unfamiliar this language was to my third graders. How many adults know that there are three kinds of triangles that can described by their angles: right triangle, acute triangle, or obtuse triangle. Or by their sides: scalene (all sides of different length), isosceles (2 sides of equal length), or equilateral (all sides the same length).
There’s nothing like a novel tool to make learning more fun–and so, we pulled out the protractors and set to work creating and measuring some “angle fish.” After a quick demonstration, students set to work…trying hard to remember to trace and draw a semi-circle on the fold (there were only a couple of oopses!). I gave them each an angle measurement on a post-it note…and they used their protractor to measure the designated angle to cut out as the mouth. And then the fun began as students used scraps to create colorful, unique fish with definite personality!
We later sorted the fish into their angle category–discovering that my careful distribution of angle measurements (dividing the class approximately equally into acute and obtuse angles) didn’t quite work out in practice. Using a protractor actually means you have to know some things about angles before using the tool. It’s quite easy to measure 110º and end up with an acute angle instead! But the point was the learning–not perfection, and learn they did!
To top things off, we started singing a new song…another one penned by the Bazillions called Triangular Triangles. Songs are always a fun way to learn new information and my students are not shy about belting them out!
My angle in all of this is to convince my students–all of them–that math is fun! Everyone can learn math and make continual improvement if they engage with the ideas. My students were already suspecting that I would be having them do some writing (as I do with almost every kind of art we make)–I’m also always working to convince them that writing is both fun and meaningful. My students know I always have some kind of ulterior motive for my lessons–and I guess they are right! My goal is to impact each student I teach in ways that positively impact their success as contributing members of society, whatever they decide to do in their futures…and of course, to make learning enjoyable each and every day at school!