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Category Archives: Right Triangles

Classifying Triangles

We look specifically at 45-45-90 triangles on the first day of our Right Triangles unit. I’ve already written specifically about what the 45-45-90 exploration looked like, but I wanted to note a conversation that we had before that exploration.

Jill and I had recently talked about introducing new learning by drawing on what students already know. I’ve always started 45-45-90 triangles by having students think about what they already know about these triangles (even though many have never called them 45-45-90 triangles before). After hearing about one of Jill’s classes, though, I started by asking students to make a column for triangles, right triangles, and equilateral triangles, noting what they know to always be true for each. This short exercise gave students the opportunity to attend to precision with their vocabulary.

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It occurred to me while we were talking that having students draw a Venn Diagram to organize triangles, right triangles, and equilateral triangles might be an interesting exercise. How would you draw a Venn Diagram to show the relationship between triangles, right triangles, and equilateral triangles?

In my seconds of anticipating student responses, I expected one visual but got something very different.

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What does it mean for an object to be in the intersection of two sets? Or the intersection of three sets? Or in the part of the set that doesn’t intersect with the other sets?

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Then we thought specifically about 45-45-90 triangles. What do you already know? Students practiced look for and make use of structure.

One student suggested that the legs are half the length of the hypotenuse. Instead of saying that wouldn’t work or not writing it on our list, I added it to the list and then later asked what would be the hypotenuse for a triangle with legs that are 5.

10.

I wrote 10 on the hypotenuse and waited.

But that’s not a triangle?

What?

5-5-10 doesn’t make a triangle.

Why not?

It would collapse (students have a visual image for a triangle collapsing from our previous work on the Triangle Inequality Theorem).

Does the Pythagorean Theorem work for 5-5-10?

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Students reflected the triangles about the legs and hypotenuse to compose the 45-45-90 triangle into squares and rectangles.

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And they constructed an altitude to the hypotenuse to decompose the 45-45-90 triangle into more 45-45-90 triangles.

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And then we focused on the relationship between the legs and the hypotenuse using the Math Nspired activity Special Right Triangles.

And so the journey continues … listening to and learning alongside my students.

 
 

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Special Right Triangles: 45-45-90

I gave my students our learning progression for SMP 8 a few weeks ago as we started a unit on Right Triangles and had a lesson specifically on 45-45-90 Special Right Triangles.

SMP8

The Geometry Nspired Activity Special Right Triangles contains an Action-Consequence document that focuses students attention on what changes and what stays the same. The big idea is this: students take some kind of action on an object (like grabbing and dragging a point or a graph). Then they pay attention to what happens. What changes? What stays the same? Through reflection and conversation, students make connections between multiple representations of the mathematics to make sense of the mathematics.

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Students start with what they know – the Pythagorean Theorem.

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Looking at the side lengths in a chart helps students notice and note what changes and what stays the same:

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The legs of the triangle are always the same length.

As the legs increase, the hypotenuse increases.

The hypotenuse is always the longest side.

 

Students begin to identify and describe patterns and regularities:

All of the hypotenuses have √2.

The ratio of the hypotenuse to the leg is √2.

 

Students practice look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning as they generalize what is true:

To get from the leg to the hypotenuse, multiply by √2.

To get from the hypotenuse to the leg, divide by √2.

hypotenuse = leg * √2

Teachers and students have to be careful with look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Are we providing students an opportunity to work with diagrams and measurements that make us attend to precision as we express the regularity in repeated reasoning that we notice?

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In a Math Practice journal, Kaci writes about “look for regularity in repeated reasoning”. We figured out that half of a square is a 45-45-90 triangle, and students were trying to determine the other two sides of the triangle given one side length of the triangle. She says “To find the length of the hypotenuse, you take the length of a side and multiply by √2. The √2 will always be in the hypotenuse even though it may not be seen like √2. In her examples, the triangle to the left has √2 shown in the hypotenuse, but the triangle to the right has √2 in the answer even though it isn’t shown, since 3√2√2 is not in lowest form. She says, “I looked for regularity in repeated reasoning and found an interesting answer.”

What opportunities can we provide our students this week to look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning and find out something interesting?

 
 

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Which One Doesn’t Belong?

You’ve seen “which one is different” before.

(I first remember seeing this particular question from John Bament at a T3 session in 2014, although he might have gotten it from somewhere else. He sent it to the participants as a Quick Poll and showed us our quite varied results.)

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You’ve seen “Odd One Out” before.

These two images come from the Mathematics Assessment Project formative assessment lesson on Comparing Investments.

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I observed this lesson in a classroom a few weeks ago. It didn’t bother students that more than one answer can be correct, and they naturally explained why they chose what they did without the teacher even having to prompt them with “How did you get that?” or “Why?”

My coworker and I introduced Christopher Danielson’s Which One Doesn’t Belong to our beginning K-2 teachers recently. They began to think immediately about how they could do something similar with language as well as math. (And they were thrilled to learn something in PD that they could immediately take back to their classrooms.)

When I recently learned about Mary’s Which One Doesn’t Belong site, I decided to spend some time on it during our recent Math PLC meeting.

We started with a page from Christopher’s shape book. Our assistant principal (former history teacher) was thrilled to be able to immediately participate in our discussion. (How many of our students feel the same when we offer them low-floor, high-ceiling tasks?)

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We did a number WODB (one teacher fist-pumped another assistant principal when they figured out that 9 didn’t belong since the sum of its digits isn’t 7). Thanks, Pam!

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Then we moved to Rachel Fruin’s geometry Which One Doesn’t Belong. Our history teacher-turned assistant principal was still able to participate. She didn’t have the same vocabulary that the rest of the math teachers in our department had when stating why one doesn’t belong, but she learned some math vocabulary and we learned to see the images through different eyes during our shared experience.

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We ended our PLC with Hunter Patton’s Graphs & Equations 7.

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I recently heard that one measure of the success of professional development is whether the teacher’s practice changes as a result of what was learned. (Another part to this would of course be how long the teacher’s practice changes … one lesson? A few lessons? Or permanent change in lessons?) So I was thrilled to notice that the teacher with whom I share a room gave her precalculus students a WODB to try at the end of their opener later that day.

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They were studying rational functions. Which one doesn’t belong?

Before I knew it, students were in different corners of the room based on their initial responses.

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They shared thoughts with each other before sharing with the whole class.

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I tried the geometry WODB with my geometry students yesterday. I asked them to send me their response so that I could decide whether moving to one of the four corners of the room would be worthwhile. I asked bottom left to gather, bottom right to gather, and then top left & top right to gather. Why doesn’t your choice belong?

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Now work on your mathematical flexibility. Instead of being satisfied with one way to answer, find multiple responses.

Find a reason that each one doesn’t belong, and let me know when you do by selecting that choice on the new Quick Poll (now multiple response).

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Now sorted by individual responses so I can see which students need support:

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I’ve offered problem solving points for students who create their own WODB, and I look forward to seeing the results. Thank you, Mary, for creating a place for us to share and learn together … for creating a site that our teachers were able to immediately incorporate into their own learning and their students’ learning.

 

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Solving Right Triangles

Solving Right Triangles

One of the NCTM Principles to Actions Mathematics Teaching Practices is to build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding. We began conceptual understanding in our lesson on Trig Ratios. So we started our Solving Right Triangles putting-it-all-together lesson with some “Find the Error” (what’s wrong with the procedure) problems from our textbook.

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Students worked a few minutes alone before sharing their thoughts with their teams. What can you find right about the given work? What is wrong about it? How can you correct the given work?

We started our whole class conversation with #1. Students began to recognize how many options there were for correcting the given work. The Class Capture feature of TI-Nspire Navigator gave students the opportunity to see and compare each other’s calculations. They looked at and compared trig ratios for complementary angles D and F.

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We moved to #2. What error did you find?

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The triangle isn’t right. I don’t think we can use sine, cosine, and tangent for triangles that aren’t right.

Not yet … but eventually you’ll be able to.

And then BK said, “But I worked it out.”

If I haven’t learned anything else, I’ve at least learned to hear my students out. I hadn’t noticed what he’d done when students were working individually, so I didn’t know what we were about to get into. “How did you do that?”

I drew in an altitude from angle B and made two right triangles.

And so he did.

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He recognized half of an equilateral triangle, so he used 30-60-90 triangle relationships to get enough information to write a ratio for tangent of 55˚.

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This is what happens when students learn mathematics steeped in using the Standards for Mathematical Practice. Students practice make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. They practice look for and make use of structure. Even in what seems at first glance like simple, procedural problems.

And so the journey continues, with the practices slowly becoming habits of minds for my students’ learning, seeing glimpses of hope more often than not …

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Geometry, Right Triangles

 

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Trig Ratios

Trig Ratios

How do your students experience learning right triangle trigonometry? How do you introduce sine, cosine, and tangent ratios to them?

NCTM’s Principles to Actions includes build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding as one of the Mathematics Teaching Practices. In what ways can technology help us help our students build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding?

Until I started using TI-Nspire Technology several years ago, right triangle trigonometry is one topic where I felt like I started and ended at procedural fluency. How do you get students to experience trig ratios?

I’ve been using the Geometry Nspired activity Trig Ratios ever since it was published. Over the last year, I also read posts from Mary Bourassa: Calculating Ratios and Jessica Murk: Building Trig Tables about learning experiences for making trigonometric ratios more meaningful for students. Here’s how this year’s lesson played out …

We first established a bit of a need for something called trig (when they finally get to learn about the sin, cos, and tan buttons on their calculator that they’ve not known how to use). I showed a diagram and asked how we could solve it. We reserved “trig” for something they couldn’t yet solve.

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We use TI-Nspire Navigator with our TI-Nspire handhelds, and so I can send Quick Polls to assess where students are. Sometimes Quick Polls aren’t actually so “quick”, but these were, along with letting students think about what we already know and uncovering a few misconceptions along the way (25 isn’t the same thing as 18√2).

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Next I asked each student to construct a right triangle with a 40˚ angle and measure the sides of the triangle.

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I sent a Quick Poll to collect their measurements.

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Then we looked at the TNS document for Trig Ratios. Students can take multiple actions on the diagram. I asked them to start by moving point B. What do you notice? We recorded their statements for our class notes.

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Then I asked them to click on the up and down arrows of the slider. What do you notice?

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What ratio of side lengths is used for the sine of an angle?

You all constructed a right triangle with a 40˚ angle and recorded the measurements. What’s true about all of your triangles?

  • The triangles are all similar because the angles are congruent.
  • The corresponding side lengths are proportional.
  • We know that sin(40˚) is always the same.
  • So the opposite leg over the hypotenuse will be the same?

Will it? We sent their data to a Lists & Spreadsheet page and calculated a fourth column, opp_leg/hyp. What do you notice?

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Of course their ratios aren’t exactly the same, but that’s another good discussion. They are close. And students noticed that one entry has the opposite leg and adjacent leg switched because the leg opposite 40˚ is shorter than the leg opposite 50˚.

We didn’t spend long looking at the TNS pages for tangent and cosine … students were well on their way to understanding a trig ratio conceptually. They just needed to establish which side lengths to use for cosine and which to use for tangent.

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There’s a reason that #AskDontTell has been running through my mind as I have conversations with my students and reflect on them. Jill Gough wrote a post using that hashtag over two years ago: Circle Investigation – #AskDontTell.

What #AskDontTell opportunities can you provide your students this week?

[Cross-posted at T3 Learns]

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Geometry, Right Triangles

 

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Practicing Formative Assessment: Hopewell Triangles

This year’s Mathematics Assessment Project Hopewell Triangles task on similarity and right triangles played out differently than previous years.

2013 – Right Triangle

2013 – Similarity

2014 – Misconceptions

In general, students didn’t have as many misconceptions as the prior year.

As students were working by themselves, I did see one misconception that I was sure to bring out in our whole class discussion.

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(Look at ∆D above.)

On another trip around the room, I saw this on his handheld, which helped him correct his own mistake for ∆D.

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I particularly enjoy seeing different ways that students explain why the triangles are similar (#3) and why or why not the triangle is a right triangle.

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I sent a TNS document with questions to collect student responses for some of the questions. When I collected it after students worked individually, we had a 70% success rate. (I’ve changed the Student Name Format to Student ID to keep student names concealed.)

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At that point, we changed to Team mode, and students talked with each other about their work and I told them that they could change answers in their TNS document as they discussed their work. Students are making it a practice to not mark an answer unless they have an explanation to go with the answer. When I collected their work the second time, I knew that our whole class discussion needed to start with the third question. (I also knew who needed to come in during zero block for extra support.)

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Also of note is that the first collection of question 3 had these results:

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But the final collected had these results:

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Why is ∆1~∆A?

Why isn’t ∆1 similar to ∆F or ∆E?

We finished the discussion by discussing a misconception that students had last year. Anna thinks that ∆2 is a 30-60-90 triangle. Do you agree? Why or why not?

And so the journey continues, using formative assessment to make instructional adjustments to meet the needs of the students who are currently in my care …

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Dilations, Geometry, Right Triangles

 

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30-60-90 Triangles

In our 30-60-90 triangle lesson, we first find out what students already know about 30-60-90 triangles. We deliberately let them practice look for and make use of structure. Some students compose the triangle into an equilateral triangle and note that one side is double the length of the other (we eventually attended to precision to note that the hypotenuse is double the length of the shorter leg).

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Some students rotated the triangle 180˚ about the midpoint of the hypotenuse; others rotated it 180˚ about the midpoint of the longer leg.

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Other students decomposed the triangle by drawing the altitude to the hypotenuse and noted that they formed two additional 30-60-90 triangles.

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Our lesson (partially from the Geometry Nspired activity Special Right Triangles) provided the opportunity for students to look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning using the equilateral triangle. What changes and what stays the same as you grab and move point B?

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Recording side lengths in a table also provided the opportunity for students to look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. But after our 45-45-90 lesson the day before, I thought it would be okay to skip that step and move to #3.

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As soon as we recorded some of the student responses to #3, I realized I had made a mistake. They weren’t all getting that the longer leg is the shorter leg times √3. I had tried to rush to the result instead of giving students the time to notice when calculations are repeated, to evaluate the reasonableness of intermediate results, and to look for general methods and shortcuts.

We took a step back. They all used the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the altitude for an equilateral triangle with a side length of 10, and then in the little time remaining we used our technology to confirm the result and help us generalize the relationship between the side lengths of a 30-60-90 triangle.

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And so the journey continues … learning more each day that providing students deliberate learning episodes steeped in using the Math Practices is much more effective than having them haphazardly figure out the math.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Angles & Triangles, Geometry, Right Triangles

 

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