In geometry, we often use Always, Sometimes, or Never:

A trapezoid is ___ a parallelogram.

A parallelogram is ___ a trapezoid.

(Be careful how you answer those if you are using the inclusive definition of trapezoid.)

And in geometry, we often use True (A) or False (S or N):

A trapezoid is a parallelogram.

A parallelogram is a trapezoid.

(Apparently we were talking about squares and trapezoids, not parallelograms and trapezoids, when we were figuring out which had to be true.)

And in geometry, we often use implied True (A):

So when a few students asked about this question, we asked whether you could draw any parallelogram that doesn’t have four right angles. Since you can, we don’t say that the statement is (A) true.

[Note: the green marks indicate the number of students who answered both and only rectangle and square.]

In geometry, we are still learning the implications of the inclusive definition of trapezoid. Another of our questions was the following.

And thank goodness, in geometry, I have students who question me, even those with a voice so quiet we have to lean in to hear. “But I can draw a trapezoid that doesn’t have exactly one pair of parallel sides. I don’t think the trapezoids should be marked correct.”

And of course, he is right. In our deductive system, we don’t name any quadrilaterals with exactly one pair of parallel sides.

So how could I recover our lesson and be sure that my students understood both what we mean by (A) true and our inclusive definition of trapezoid?

I asked students to look ahead to a graphic organizer (borrowed from Mr. Chase, who borrowed from mathisfun.com), review it, and answer the new question. I took the question from the opener and changed “exactly one” to “at least one”. I asked students to work alone.

Here’s what I got back.

Without showing them the results, I asked students to talk with their teams and answer the poll one last time. All 31 students answered correctly.

So what next?

I’ve been determined over the past three years to stay away from the quadrilateral checklist. You remember the one, right? This is mine from the first 18 years of teaching geometry. I didn’t complete the list for them – each team had a different figure, and they measured (with rulers and protractors before we had the technology with measurement tools) and figured out which properties were always true. But still – how effective is it to complete a checklist, even when you and your classmates are figuring it out?

We wanted to get at how the quadrilaterals are the same and how they are different in a way that was more engaging than just showing a few figures and asking students to calculate a missing measurement.

So another Quick Poll to get the conversation going. Students immediately began talking with their teams. For which figure(s) will the one angle measure be enough for us to determine the remaining interior angle measures?

And decent results.

We went to figure B. Why isn’t one angle measure enough?

And then figure C. Why isn’t one angle measure enough?

And then figure D. Why is one angle measure enough?

Student justifications included words like “rotation”, “reflection”, “decompose into triangles”, “isosceles triangle”. We talked about how we knew the triangles in the kite pictured were not congruent, and in fact not similar either, when decomposed by the horizontal diagonal. Informal justifications … but justifications, nonetheless … and hopefully ammunition for students to realize they can make sense out of these exercises transformationally without having a list of properties for each figure memorized.

We spent a little more time on rhombi using a Math Nspired document for exploration, after which I sent another Quick Poll:

How did ten students get 144˚?

The students figured out the error: a misreading of which angle is 36˚ … not a misunderstanding of angle measure relationships in rhombi.

And then more about kites using the same Math Nspired activity, during which time a student asked to be made the Live Presenter so that he could show his concave kite to the class. What properties do concave and convex kites share? (More than I expected. I’m not the what-can-I-do-to-break-the-rule kind of person. But I am surrounded by students and daughters who are.) And I am still amazed that SC asked to be the Live Presenter since that was usually the time that he excuses himself to go to the restroom.

So what information is enough angle-wise in the kite for you to determine the rest?

We ended with a bit of closure with two final Quick Polls & results that provide evidence of student learning.

And so the journey continues … always rethinking and revising lessons and questions to get the most out of our time and conversations together.

howardat58

November 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm

In the rhombus 36 degree picture it is not really clear that 36 is half the rhombus angle, since the 3 it sitting partly on one of the sides. This has implications for computer based testing. It is a pity that the program doesn’t mark the angle with the traditional “arc of circle”. Perhaps this was too much for the programmers !.

One more thing, unless I have been on about it too many times already, and that is the idea of a “special case”. This is one of the very important concepts in all of math. The so-called “straight angle” is a nice example. Whether it exists or not depends on your definition of angle. So a rectangle is a special case of a parallelogram, a square is a special case of a rectangle, and a quadrilateral connecting four identical points is not only a special case, it is a degenerate case as well.

jwilson828

November 6, 2014 at 6:02 am

Thank you for your comment. I can fix the 36˚ so that it has the “arc of circle” mark. The program does mark the angle when the angle is measured; I had just typed the text myself instead of measuring, as I didn’t construct the figure to scale.