Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transforming geometry

I never wanted to teach geometry. It bored me in high school, and I could never get myself particularly excited about the side splitter theorems or, well, anything about it. Ick.

So naturally, geometry was and is one of my main course assignments as part of my first teaching position.

Goal: make geometry interesting to teach and learn. Or, at least suck less.

There are two reasons that this might actually happen - The Common Core State Standards and computational thinking.

Common Core

 The first one is that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) changed the focus of high school quite significantly by giving transformations a central role. Our department made the decision to embrace this direction and go with it. This summer we've been taking the suggested sequencing from Appendix A, and then interpreting and translating this into a curriculum that we feel we can teach. If you want to a gander/copy/steal, our work is here (and still changing):
Now these alone aren't going to make geometry awesome, but I think that they do provide an improved sequencing and emphasis than a traditional geometry course. I'm also just getting a start on writing some assessments which is highlighting how different the approach is. I'll post more about that later.

Computational thinking

This one has me much more excited. I already wrote a post about what it is and why I've decided to use it. At a high level, think of computational thinking as combining critical thinking with the power of computing, an incredibly relevant approach.

Now that may not sound like it has much to do with high school geometry. High school geometry is traditionally a very abstract course where students are first introduced to mathematical rigor and proof. Unfortunately, we can fall into teaching geometry as a means to end (teaching proof), and we lose some of the utility and concreteness of geometry. After all, geometry is shapes!

So with that motivation, I want to consistently incorporate computational thinking practices into geometry. I want to make geometry a more hands-on and practical course. I'll still teach proof & rigor, but I want students to associate geometry with geometry rather than proof.


  1. Your units 3 and 4 actually link to unit 2, which makes me sad because this looks like an awesome resource!

    1. [...scrambled to fix...] Thanks for the heads up - they should *now* be correct. I thought that I had checked the links, but apparently not...

      Anyway, that's great if they can be of any help. We're finishing up writing short formatives for every single standard, and then we're going to put together the summative assessments. I'm thinking the next step would be to build on this and make the class more project based, but that's probably for next year.

      Let me know what you think about what you see, and I'll be blogging about the new geometry we'll be teaching this fall!

  2. I commented on Tina's blog and found you through there. I thought this was going to be the year of the radical re-vamp for Geometry at my school I'm in California and Common Core doesn't take affect (effect?) until 2014 for us. So during this lame duck time for our existing standards, I'm wanting to try different things out.

    I've long thought and written that the way we traditionally teach Geometry (and the way I've seen every text structured in the last 10+ years...including new Common Core texts) starts by assuming they've got good skills they don't, throws lots of 'basics' at them all at once so they're thoroughly confused, then beats them up with proofs that they REALLY don't get. Then, they hate Geometry.

    I look forward to hearing more about how your year goes!