Thursday, March 08, 2012

Eavesdropping Assumptions

In geometry we are learning the special right triangles, and I wanted to give the students time to come up with memory tools for remembering which ratios went where on the 2 triangles. Having taught geometry for 12 years, most of the tools are repeats for me, but every so often I get some surprises that stick in my head.

I gave the students time to discuss, and it was a class late in the day, and I was observing who was doing what. I eavesdropped on 2 students and thought I overheard, "she was hung over, so that's why she didn't come to school". And then they both snickered and continued talking. "Great!" I thought. First of all someone is drinking, second of all these kids are off task. Third .... who's absent today ??? Fourth, do I make a big deal of it? Which part? The drinking or (more seriously :)) NOT talking geometry when they should be.

Then I asked for volunteers to share their memory tools. Here are some repeats (for me) and some refreshing new ones:
* The 30-60-90 has 3 different angles, so that's the one with 3 different numbers (1, 2, root 3).
* The 45-45-90 has twin angles, so the parents are the x's and the root 2 are the twins
* For each of them, the hy-pot-TWO-nuse has a 2 involved on the hypotenuse side.
* the root 3 is by the 30

Then one of the "drunk talker" students raised her hand:
* On the 30-60-90 triangle, the bottom one has one X boyfriend, one has 2 X boyfriends, and one has 3 X boyfriends, and she's still HUNG OVER HIM, so that's why there's a radical hanging over the 3.

I clarified that she really meant "hung up" on him, and I was the only lush thinking about alcohol, but then I had to laugh at myself for assuming the students weren't doing what I'd asked them to do when all along they were.

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