Category Archives: Geometry

Action-Consequence-Reflection Activities for GeoGebra

When I choose to use technology in my math teaching, I want to be sure that the technology tool supports the learning, and helps students to develop conceptual understanding.  The Action-Consequence-Reflection cycle is one structure that I use towards this goal.  I’ve written about Action-Consequence-Reflection activities before, in this post and this post, and I recently had an article published in the North American GeoGebra Journal, “Using Action-Consequence-Reflection GeoGebra Activities To Make Math Stick.”

In the Action-Consequence-Reflection cycle, students

  • Perform a mathematical action
  • Observe a mathematical consequence
  • Reflect on the result and reason about the underlying mathematical concepts

The reflection component is, in my view, the critical component for making learning deeper and more durable.  The article includes the following six activities that use the cycle to help “make the math stick” for students.  Each of the GeoGebra applets is accompanied by a lab worksheet for students to record their observations and answer reflective questions.

EXPLORING GRAPHS & SLIDERS:

The first two activities use dynamic sliders so that students can make changes to a function’s equation and observe corresponding changes on the graph.

In Power Functions, students control the exponent n in the function f\left(x\right)=x^n , and can toggle between positive and negative leading coefficients. Capture power funct border

In Function Transformations, students investigate the effects of the parameters a, h, and k on the desired parent function.Capture funct transf border

INTERACTIVE VISUALIZERS:      

Using the power of visualization to deepen understanding, the Domain and Range applet highlights sections of the appropriate axis as students manipulate linear and quadratic functions.Capture DR lin quad border

UNDERSTANDING STRUCTURE:

In the Rational Functions activity, students explore how the algebraic structure of functions relates to important graph features. The handout includes extensions allowing investigation of other rational function scenarios not already covered.Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 9.52.52 PM

INVESTIGATING INVARIANTS:

The last two activities have students looking for invariants—something about the mathematical situation that stays the same while other things change.

In Interior & Exterior Angles, students investigate relationships among the angles of a triangle and form conjectures about the sums that do and don’t change as the shape of the triangle changes.Capture int ext border

In Right Triangle Invariants, the applet links the geometry figure to a numerical table of values, and students discover several invariant properties occurring in right triangles.Capture right tri border

PLANNING FOR REFLECTION:

Simply using these robust technology activities will not guarantee student learning and conceptual understanding; it is imperative that we as teachers plan for reflection by including focusing questions, discussion of students’ mathematical thinking, and clear lesson summaries with the activity.  Use the provided lab worksheets or adapt them for your needs.  Capitalize on the power of the Action-Consequence-Reflection cycle to make the math stick for your students’ success!


Notes and Resources:

This post contains excerpts from the full article (pdf available here) from Vol 7 No 1 (2018): North American GeoGebra Journal.

The North American GeoGebra Journal (NAGJ) is a peer-reviewed journal highlighting the use of GeoGebra in teaching and learning school mathematics (grades K-16). The website for the NAGJ is here.

My GeoGebra Action-Consequence-Reflection applets are in this GeoGebra book, or they can found by entering “kdcampe” into the GeoGebra search box.  Thanks to Tim Brzezinski, Marie Nabbout, and Steve Phelps for their assistance with some of the GeoGebra applets.

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Table Techniques

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How might we use the graphing calculator Table feature to build conceptual understanding and support procedural knowledge?  Here are some ideas…

 

A. Dynamic Tables is one way I use the Action–Consequence–Reflection cycle in my teaching.  We generate a table so that students perform a mathematical action, observe a consequence, and reflect upon the mathematical meaning in order to build conceptual understanding.

In Algebra, when students learn to distinguish linear vs. exponential growth*, we enter the simple equations Y1 = 2x and Y2 = 2x on the TI-84+ family of calculators (TI-84+CE shown here).

To observe the growth of the functions numerically, adjust the Table Settings:  press 2nd WINDOW for [TBLSET] and set the Independent variable to AUTO and the Dependent variable to ASK (see above right).  This will allow students to generate the Y-values one at a time, rather than have them appear all at once.  Press 2nd GRAPH to view the table and press ENTER to generate each value, moving down each column.  View the video here.

How does the Y-value change as you move down each column?  Students should use mathematical language to describe what they observe.  Can you tell where the graphs would intersect?  Which equation grows faster?

Alternatively, set the Independent variable to ASK and the Dependent variable to AUTO.  In this setup, enter the X-value and both Y-values will fill in.  I use this when students are comparing two scenarios to see which grows faster.

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 5.41.06 PM

 

Another example of Dynamic Tables is to build understanding of negative and zero exponents.  Enter the following into Y1: equation (the fraction is used to force fractional results in the table; make sure Answers are set to “Auto” under MODE).  Set Independent to ASK and Dependent to AUTO, then enter X-values of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 in the table.

  • What mathematical process is happening to the X-value in each new row?
  • Subtracting 1 each time, which means subtracting 1 from the exponent.
  • What mathematical process is happening to the Y-value?
  • Dividing by 2 each time.

Then ask, what do you predict will happen when X = 0?  When X = –1? When X = –2?  Change the base to 3 or 5 or 10 and observe.  Students can now explain what to do when a base is raised to a negative or zero exponent.

Capture 3

Here is what we wrote on the board as we explored the table on the calculator.

IMG_8312

 

B. Noticing Invariants

Tables can also be used to notice Invariants—quantities, shapes or locations that do not change even though other things are changing.  Set up the table starting at 0 with an increment of 15, AUTO-AUTO and use Degree mode.  Examine the table for Y1 = sin(x) and Y2 = cos(x).  What do you notice?  Are any values equal?  Why does this occur?

My students and I don’t just examine the table, we also look at a geometric figure of a right triangle with side lengths that are easy to compute with, such as 3, 4, and 5.  Determine the sine and cosine of each angle and discuss how this relates to the table values.

right tri

Next, add another expression into Y3 as shown below left: use (Y1)2 = (Y2)2 to represent sin2x + cos2x, pressing ALPHA TRACE to access the Y-variables.  What does the table display?  Why is this so?  Again, refer to the right triangle figure—can you explain why this property is known as the “Pythagorean Identity”?

 

C. Aids for Factoring and Simplifying

So far we’ve used the table as a tool for inquiry; now we turn to using it as an aid for computation, number sense, and procedural fluency.  For factoring trinomials and simplifying radicals, students need to determine the numerical factors of a number.  When the number is large, or the student needs some scaffolding support, enter into Y1 the number divided by X and view the table (TblStart=1, ΔTbl=1).

For example, Y1 = 72/X  and the table clearly shows which numbers are factors and which are not, depending on whether a decimal remainder results (note that the “slash” version of the fraction bar forces decimal results).

For students needing assistance remembering perfect squares, cubes, or other powers, enter those functions into Y= and view the table.

When simplifying radicals into exact form, combine the two techniques to find perfect squares, cubes, etc. that are factors of the radicand value.‡

Of course, in both of these examples, students could simply enter calculations on the home screen until they hit upon the “right” divisor.  The table has the advantage of systematically presenting the information in one place.

 

D. Generating Sequences

If an explicit formula for a sequence is known, simply enter it into Y= and set the table to start at 1 with an increment of 1.  For example, the sequence 2, 5, 8, 11, … has explicit formula an = 2 + 3(n – 1).  In function mode, x is used in place of n.

This can also be accomplished in Sequence Mode.  nMin is the starting term number, u(n) is the explicit formula for term un, and u(nMin) is the value of the first term u1.  Note that the symbol n is found on the  x theta t n  key in sequence mode.  Here is the same sequence as above.

Capture 26.png

Although Sequence mode isn’t necessary for explicit formulas, it is very useful to generate a sequence recursively**.  This time, express u(n) in terms of the previous term u(n–1).  The u(n–1) variable is found by pressing ALPHA TRACE (or type it directly with the u above the 7 key).

Capture 27

Back in Function mode, I’ve also discovered that helpful sequences can be created with the Table.  When Precalculus students studied the Binomial Theorem, they often wrote out several rows of Pascal’s Triangle rather than use the nCr values for the appropriate power.  The table comes to the rescue: enter nCx into Y1, with the numerical value of the power for n.  Begin the table at 0 and increment by 1, and the appropriate row of Pascal’s Triangle is displayed.

Whether you use the table to enable investigation and inquiry, or use it to support numerical and procedural fluency, take these Table Techniques to your classroom!


Notes and Resources:

♦◊♦ This blog post was revised and expanded and published in the May 2019 issue of NCTM’s Mathematics Teacher Journal. If you can’t access, contact me directly. ♦◊♦

*The complete activity using Dynamic Tables to explore Linear and Exponential Growth is here.

**Recursive sequences can also be generated directly on the Home screen of the TI-84+ family, as an alternative to Sequence Mode.  Simply enter the value of the first term, then perform the recursive operation on the ANS, and press enter for the second term.  Finally, press ENTER as many times as desired to generate the sequence.  Below left is the same sequence discussed above; below right is the sequence based on paying off a $500 credit card bill with 24% annual interest and monthly payment of $75.

‡Thanks to Fred Decovsky for this suggestion.

Great Thinking!

light bulbOne of the bonuses of working with students one-on-one is that I can get a window into their mathematical thinking by asking questions and having them “narrate” their work as they proceed.  Several of my recent conversations demonstrate unique and flexible thinking that helped my students work through computations effectively.

How might we enable this type of visible thinking in our classrooms?  I tried these prompts:

  • Tell me what you were thinking.
  • What would you do to compute this if you didn’t have a calculator?
  • What math operation did you do first?
  • Can you explain the steps you did in your mind?

What follows are some observations of “great thinking” by my students, who used flexible number sense for success.

A. Using number sense for easier multiplying or dividing

IMG_7212

IMG_7214

B. Fantastic Fraction Flexibility

Here, noticing the multiplier is easier than solving the proportion directly:IMG_7207

In this question about slope, the student noticed that the first denominator must be 2 if the fractions are to be equal.IMG_7210

C. Simplifying with Radicals

It is hard to find perfect square factors of large numbers; this strategy employs factors and the student never found the original product.IMG_7208

Here, the student used an alternative to the traditional process of rationalizing the denominator.IMG_7213

D. Factors and Multiples

Rather than set up proportions, this student noticed multiplesIMG_7205

I’ve avoided the term “cancel” for some time, so here we talked about “dividing away common factors”. IMG_7206

E. Other interesting choices for computation and order of operations

The formula for area of a trapezoid can be thought of as “height * average of the bases”.  This student also applied binomial multiplication to compute without a calculator.IMG_7215

Here the typical order of operations would do the distributive property first.  Instead, the student saved a step.IMG_7211


Also on my mind as I write this are three things I have read this week.  First, James Tanton addresses a multiplication mistake made by an education official in this blog post, forgetting what 7 x 8 is.  Tanton suggests that the “best answer” in this case would have been “This is a tricky one. But I do have in my head that 7×7 is 49, so 7×8 is seven more than this: 56” because it highlights the thought process and downplays the memorization aspect of number facts.  His discussion is thought provoking (and he applies the same idea to trig identities too!).

The second item I was contemplating was in Sarah Carter’s Monday Must Reads post; she and I both liked David Sladkey’s “No eraser allowed” technique of insisting students leave their mathematical thinking available for the teacher to see.

Capture

The third concept informing my thinking is the book study I’ve been doing with colleagues from Teachers Teaching with Technology (#T3Learns) on “Visible Learning for Mathematics” (2017) by Hattie et al.  Hattie describes a spiral relationship between surface learning, deep learning, and transfer learning that enables students to achieve.  He notes that surface learning is NOT shallow learning (p 29) but is instead “made up of both conceptual exploration and learning vocabulary and procedural skills that give structure to ideas” (p 104) that “sets the necessary foundation for the deepening knowledge” (P 131) on the path to understanding. Techniques such as number talks, guided questioning, worked examples (including accurate work and work with mistakes), and highlighting metacognitive strategies all enhance the process of surface learning for students, according to Hattie.

I constantly remind students to “Show Your Mathematical Thinking”—which is the updated version of “Show Your Work.” By asking them to “narrate” their thinking, I am focusing on my students’ surface learning to build their foundation of skills and tools on their learning journey.

 

 

Action-Consequence Advantage!

Using Technology to Make Math Stick

How might we enable students to grasp mathematical concepts and make their learning durable?  One approach is to use the sequence of Action-Consequence-Reflection in lesson activities:

  • Students perform a mathematical action
  • Observe a mathematical consequence
  • Reflect on the result and reason about the underlying mathematical concepts

The ACTION can be on a graph, geometric figure, symbolic algebra expression, list of numbers or physical model.  Technology can be used in order to have a quick and accurate result or CONSEQUENCE for students to observe.

The REFLECTION component is the most important part of this sequence; without this, students might not pay attention to the important math learnings we intended for the lesson.  They might remember using calculators, computers, ipads, or smartboards, but not recall what the tech activity was about.  And if they did learn the concept in the first place, the process of reflection helps make the learning stick—it is one of the cognitive techniques shown to make learning more successful.*

Students can reflect in many ways: record results, answer questions, discuss implications with classmates, make predictions, communicate their thinking orally or in writing, develop proofs and construct arguments.  The intended (or unexpected) learnings should be summarized either individually or as a class in order to solidify the concepts, preferably in a written form.**

In my one-on-one work with students, we often fall into the “procedural trap” in which my students just want to know “what to do” and don’t feel that the “why it works” is all that important (I’ve written about this before here). Also, our time is limited with many topics to cover.  But this past week, I was able to sneak in some Action-Consequence-Reflection with two students because they had mastered the prior material and were getting ahead on a new unit. It was a great opportunity to have them discover a concept or pattern for themselves, far better than simply being told it is true.

For each of these, I used a simple REFLECTION prompt:  What do you observe?  What changes?  What stays the same?

Student #1: Polynomial Function End Behavior, Algebra 2 (or PreCalculus)End Behav QWe used a TI-84+CE to investigate the polynomials.  We began with the even powers on a Zoom Decimal window, and my student noticed that higher powers had “steeper sides”.  I asked “what are the y-values doing to make this happen?” and we noticed the y-values were “getting bigger faster”.  We then used the Zoom In command to investigate what was going on between x = –1 and x = 1, and noticed that higher powers were “flatter” close to the origin because their y-values were lower.

 

Why did this happen? Take x = 2 and raise it to successive powers, and it gets bigger. Take x = ½ and raise it to successive powers and it gets smaller. We confirmed this with the table:

Setting the Table features to “Ask” for the Independent variable but “Auto” for the Dependent made the table populate only with the values we wanted to view. Fractions can be used in the table, and we used the decimal value 0.5 for number sense clarity. Another observation was that the graphs coincided at three points: (1, 1), (0, 0) and (–1, 1).

In fact, none of this was what I “intended” to teach with the lesson, but it was mathematically interesting nonetheless, and my student already had a deeper appreciation for the graph’s properties. We moved on to the odd powers, and the same “steep” vs. “flat” properties were observed:

AC end beh 6

 

Then I asked my student to consider what made the graph of the even powers different from the graph of the odd powers, and what about them was the same, finally getting around to my “lesson”.  He noticed that even powers had a pattern of starting “high” on the left and ending “high” on the right, while odd powers started “low” on the left but ended “high” on the right.  We made predictions about the graphs of x11 and x12, to apply our understanding to new cases.† Then we moved on to the sign of the leading coefficient: when it is negative, our pattern changed to even powers “low” on the left and “low” on the right, with odd powers “high” on the left and “low” on the right.

All of this took just a few minutes, including the detour at the beginning that I wasn’t “intending” to teach.

Student #2: Interior and Exterior Angles of a Triangle, Geometry

Int Ext 1

We began with a dynamic geometry figure of a triangle which displayed the measurements of the three interior angles and one exterior angle.  I asked my student: “What do you notice?” and “what do you want to know about this figure?”  We dragged point B around to make different types of triangles.

This motivated my student to wonder about the angle measures; he was familiar with Linear Pair Angles, so he noticed that ∠ACB and ∠BCD made a linear pair and stated they would add up to 180°.  I then revealed some calculations of the angle measures, which dynamically update as we changed the triangle’s shape (the 180° in the upper right is the sum of the 3 interior angles).  What changes? What stays the same?

Int Ext 6

We noticed that both sums of 180° were constant‡ no matter how the triangle was transformed, but the sum of the 2 remote interior angles kept changing, and in fact, matched the measure of the exterior angle.  My student recorded his findings in his notebook, and then I asked, “can we prove it?”.  It was easy for us to prove the Exterior Angle Theorem based on his previous knowledge of the sum of the interior angles and the concept of supplementary linear pairs.  This student loved that he had “discovered” a new idea for himself, without me just telling him.

Even though these concepts are relatively simple, I feel that using a technology Action-Consequence activity made the learning more impactful and durable for my students, and I believe it was more effective than just telling them the property I wanted to teach. It took us a few more minutes to explore the context with technology than it would have to simply copy the theorems out of the book, but it was worth it!

 


Notes and Resources:

*For a full elaboration of cognitive science strategies for becoming a productive learner (or designing your teaching to enhance learning), see Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger & Mark A. McDaniel, 2014.  Website: http://makeitstick.net .

**Written summaries allow students to Elaborate and Reflect on the learning, two more of the cognitive strategies.  In addition, by insisting that students record the results of the work, the teacher sends the message that the technology investigation comprises important knowledge for the class.

†Making predictions is a way to formatively assess my students’ understanding.  It also is a form of Generation, another cognitive strategy that makes the learning more durable.

‡This is an example of an invariant, a value or sum that doesn’t change, which are often important mathematical/geometric results.

Here are the two activities discussed in the post. Note that the Geogebra file for Power functions has the advantage of having a dynamic slider, but students won’t view the graphs at the same time, so won’t notice the common points or the graph properties between –1 and 1.