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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Triangle Congruence Theorems

are so boring, and there is no nice way to teach them. A google search turns up a hojillion versions of "state the theorem and show an example." Here's what I did this year. It sucks and I'm looking for better ideas.

What makes triangles congruent? They're the same size and shape. This means all the sides and all the angles are congruent. The kids had to sit through one proof like this. What a pain, having to write 6 statements to show that two triangles are congruent.

In class the next day, I had them draw three segments with a ruler on scrap paper: one the length of their index finger, one the length of their ear, and one the width of their palm. I told them to construct a triangle with sides of these three lengths. I passed out compasses but didn't give them any instruction on how to do it. Some of them figured it out. A few of these guys showed everyone what they did with the giant compass and yardstick on the whiteboard.

We had a "discussion" about how there was only one triangle you could make with the three lengths. And when I say "discussion" I mean I said - did you notice that those three lengths would only make one triangle? That the angles were sort of 'locked in'? You couldn't just draw the other sides at any old angle? Then I did a lame little demo of how with 4 sticks, the angles are all wobbly and you can make a ton of different quadrilaterals, but with three sticks, you can only get them to make one triangle. I said something about bridges. Then I modeled and they practiced a bunch of SSS proofs.

Today was SAS. In previous years I passed out protractors, and asked them to draw a triangle with two specific side lengths and a specific included angle, then look around and notice how everyone ended up with the same triangle. I didn't feel this really sent the message that the angle has to be included. This year, I asked them to solve these two problems:

I don't honestly know how effective this was. Yeah "we" eventually made the point, but it took FOREVER, and I'm sure some kids got the point, but I'm also sure that half the class was just sitting politely waiting for the torture to be over. And some kids, of course, get downright indignant when you ask them to do something that turns out to be impossible. Which, whatever, but it's much harder to teach somebody who has concluded you are a crap teacher.

Then we practiced determining which other pair of corresponding things you would need in order to use SAS, then we did one example proof.

I know this sucks but I don't know anyone doing anything better. So let me hear it, hot shots.