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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kaminski

Lines, Angle and Protractors: Oh my!

I have always loved math when I was growing up but for all the wrong reasons. I liked that if I followed a set of rules, I got an expected outcome. Even as an adult, I like that reasoning even though the world rarely works that way. If I memorized steps, I would get the answer and I was pretty good at memorizing. It didn't matter that I didn't understand what I was doing, I still made an A on every test, because I had the right answer. (There are so many things wrong with that reasoning and math instruction, right? It's a good thing I learned that we need to teach WHY and emphasize that now every time I teach!)

However, that set of reasoning was challenged when I began doing geometry. I HATED geometry, because I couldn't just follow some rules. I had to view it differently. I had to problem solve to SEE what was happening. Which angle am I measuring? How do I isolate that part of the shape? I received my first C ever in high school geometry which was completely unreal for a straight A student. (It had nothing to do with the fact that I was the youngest in my class and had a total crush on the older student who sat next to me all year...I promise!)

From my 16 years of teaching, I have found the geometry chapters to be very enlightening. Many of my students have similar experiences to mine. Straight A students all of a sudden begin having challenges, because their spatial awareness is being challenged while students who struggled in computation are now excelling. Those students who struggled all year now look at a 3-dimensional shape and see various vertices and can describe them.

As you begin your geometry chapter, take a look at your students. Where do they fall? Are they able to visualize parts of the problem or are they holding their book in the air turning it each way to "see" it? These types of observations will definitely shape the way our students interact with each lesson, and we can use specific strategies to help every student be successful. Let's take a look at just a few of them.

Focus on Vocabulary: Geometry has a lot of language and terms that we don't use regularly. There's a reason shapes come up in each grade level. Most students don't discuss them in their everyday conversation. We will have to spend time discussing vocabulary terms. I like to have students draw their own image of the word with the vocabulary word in their math notebooks to make their own word wall. We also have a posted word wall. I like to have students consider some of the more challenging words by thinking of other examples and non-examples. You can grab my vocabulary graphic organizer for FREE by clicking here. You can also purchase word wall graphics in my SHOP for each grade level.

Allow Time for Discovery: Part of learning geometry concepts is being able to identify parts of the world around us. Students need to have their hands on the various tools that will help them to identify angles and lines. Provide students with 3D shapes, pattern blocks, protractors, and circle protractors. Give ample time for exploration. I used to leave the protractors out with art supplies for students to use when drawing. It was always interesting to see how they began using it to trace and draw lines.

Focus on Precision: One lesson I learned is that geometry is to be exact! If an architect were to design a building that didn't have proper angles, the building may not stand. When students are working with angles, there is a kind of precision that goes into it. However, protractors can be challenging due to the two scales present. When I begin teaching students to use a protractor, we walk through the following steps:

  1. We explore and play with the protractor. Why does it have two sets of scales? What does each line represent? Why is it half of a circle?

  2. When measuring or drawing angles, we first determine whether our angle is an obtuse, right or acute angle. This helps us to determine which scale to use.

  3. We use straight edge rulers or the straight edge of our protractor to be exact. If this is a challenge for some students, we use grid paper so they can see the straight lines.

Students and teachers can see this in action with the videos included in my Math with Purpose Video Membership. I walk through each of these components in 5 minutes to teach students how to use their protractors correctly while using problem solving. Instead of just following a procedure, students learn how to reason which scale to use. Sign up with your FREE 2-week trial!

After your students have watched the 5 videos that address angles, it's time for some practice. Begin by having students first measure angles with this FREE math riddle practice. Students can measure angles turned in various ways while learning another cheesy joke! You can download it instantly below!

These activities are sure to make a difference in your students understanding. If you are looking for more resources, don't forget to check out my Plane and Solid Shapes bundle in the SHOP with posters and activities.

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