CCSS-M.G-CO.C.9. Prove theorems about lines and angles. Theorems include: vertical angles are congruent; when a transversal crosses parallel lines, alternate interior angles are congruent and corresponding angles are congruent; points on a perpendicular bisector of a line segment are exactly those equidistant from the segment’s endpoints.
After proving that vertical angles are congruent, we turned our attention towards angles formed by parallel lines cut by a transversal.
My students come to high school geometry having experience with angle measure relationships when parallel lines are cut by a transversal. But they haven’t thought about why.
We make sense of Euclid’s 5th Postulate (wording below from Cut the Knot):
If a straight line crossing two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if extended indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles.
We use dynamic geometry software to explore Parallel Lines and Transversals:
And then traditionally, we have allowed corresponding angles congruent when parallel lines are cut by a transversal as the postulate in our deductive system. It makes sense to students that the corresponding angles are congruent. Then once we’ve allowed those, it’s not too bad to prove that alternate interior angles are congruent when parallel lines are cut by a transversal.
But we wonder whether we have to let corresponding angles in as a postulate. Can we use rigid motions to show that the corresponding angles are congruent?
One student suggested constructing the midpoint, X, of segment BE. Then we created a parallel to lines m and n through X. That didn’t get us very far in showing that the corresponding angles are congruent. (image on the top left)
Another student suggested translating line m using vector BE. So we really translated more than just line m. We really translated the upper half-plan formed by line m. We used took a picture of the top part of the diagram (line m and above) and translated it using vector BE. We can see in the picture on the right, that m maps to n and the transversal maps to itself, and so we conclude (bottom left image) that ∠CBA is congruent to ∠DEB: if two parallel lines are cut by a transversal, the corresponding angles are congruent.
Once corresponding angles are congruent, then proving alternate interior (or exterior) angles congruent or consecutive interior (or exterior) angles supplementary when two parallel lines are cut by a transversal follows using a mix of congruent vertical angles, transitive and/or substitution, Congruent Supplements.
But can we prove that alternate interior angles are congruent when parallel lines are cut by a transversal using rigid motions?
Several students suggested we could do the same translation (translating the “top” parallel line onto the “bottom” parallel line). ∠2≅∠2’ because of the translation (and because they are corresponding), and we can say that ∠2’≅∠3 since we have already proved that vertical angles are congruent. ∠2≅∠3 using the Transitive Property of Congruence. We conclude that when two parallel lines are cut by a transversal, alternate interior angles are congruent.
Another team suggested constructing the midpoint M of segment XY (top image). They rotated the given lines and transversal 180˚ about M (bottom image). ∠2 has been carried onto ∠3 and ∠3 has been carried onto ∠2. We conclude that when two parallel lines are cut by a transversal, alternate interior angles are congruent.
Another team constructed the same midpoint as above with a line parallel to the given lines through that midpoint. They reflected the entire diagram about that line, which created the line in red. They used the base angles of an isosceles triangle to show that alternate interior angles are congruent.
Note 1: We are still postulating that through a point not on a line there is exactly one line parallel to the given line. This is what textbooks I’ve used in the past have called the parallel postulate. And we are postulating that the distance between parallel lines is constant.
Note 2: We haven’t actually proven that the base angles of an isosceles triangle are congruent. But students definitely know it to be true from their work in middle school. The proof is coming soon.
Note 3: Many of these same ideas will show that consecutive (or same-side) interior angles are supplementary. We can use rigid motions to make the images of two consecutive interior angles form a linear pair.
After the lesson, a colleague suggested an Illustrative Mathematics task on Congruent angles made by parallel lines and a transverse, which helped me think through the validity of the arguments that my students made. As the journey continues, I find the tasks, commentary, and solutions on IM to be my own textbook – a dynamic resource for learners young and old.