Category Archives: geogebra

Powerful imagery using Geogebra

I absolutely love Geogebra, I use it in nearly every lesson to the extent that I’m not sure how I would teach certain topics without it!

I’ve written before about the power of starting from a blank sheet (angles in parallel lines, trigonometry, circle theorems), but recently I have found and used some excellent visualisations that other users have created and kindly uploaded. I feel like this aspect of Geogebra has improved considerably over the last couple of years in particular the search. I often have an idea in my head for what I want to show students and within a few seconds I have found exactly what I need by searching.  Using dynamic geometry that you can narrate to (or not) is so much better than just playing a YouTube video.  I try to think of points where I can ask “what will happen if…” type questions.

Here are my latest finds that I have used in class recently. Click on them to take you directly to the Geogebra. I’m sure this collection will be added to as I find more.

 

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Area of a triangle

I made these questions to hopefully reinforce the idea of area as the space inside a shape, rather than just the answer you get when you multiply numbers together.  Also I want them to see why the area of the triangle is half the area of the rectangle which it is enclosed within.  I made them using this Geogebra file but then pasted a few to make this worksheet, some with grids then some with just lengths.

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A colleague of mine @DrPMaths made this impressive collection of triangles with 3 integer side lengths and an integer height.  Again, they are a great way to check that students are identifying the perpendicular height and multiplying that by the base rather than just multiplying the numbers they are presented with.  There are literally hundreds of them, this is a snapshot from somewhere near the beginning!

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A place to start with straight line graphs

Here is a simple set of slides created using Geogebra.  I would normally just do this directly on Geogebra but as I needed to prepare some slides for our department planning, I thought I would share them. I have added some suggestions for how to run these in the notes section

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I want students to make the connection that if the y-value doesn’t change for a bunch of coordinates (in this base the y-value is always 4) then the line that those coordinates all sit on is y=4.  I’ve even made a little GIF where the point deliberately slides off the the right for a little while.  Gotta love a GIF!

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Trigonometry, another way

Trigonometry falls firmly into the camp of one of those areas which I don’t feel I have cracked yet.  If “cracked” means finding a bomb-proof way to introduce it to any class I encounter, then maybe I never will!  Either way, I am always interested in different approaches to teach this topic which many students seem to struggle with at first.

This approach builds on the presentation that Mike Ollerton gave at the recent Mixed Attainment Maths conference in Sheffield (keep an eye on the site for details of the next conference in November!)

I didn’t actually attend Mike’s presentation – I was too busy giving my own – but Mike has kindly shared his ideas and I have been thinking about how I might use Geogebra as a tool to aid learning.

As with most of my use of Geogebra, I am using it as an exposition tool to structure whole-class questioning and discussion around. In an ideal world, I might get students to do this themselves, but that is not practical in my classroom. I feel that starting Geogebra from a blank sheet can be nearly as powerful as them doing it themselves and is likely to be a much more efficient use of lesson time.

The basic principle used is that of rotating a fixed line segment, a “spinner” if you like, around a point.  We are aiming to explore the co-ordinates of the point at the end of the line as the angle increases from 0º to 90º (and beyond) in a table.

I must say that from this point onwards this post is not Mike’s recommended approach (which is here) – but my interpretation of it using Geogebra.

So, first step is to form the spinner by by plotting points at (0,0) and (1,0), zooming in and connecting the points with a line segment. There is something in observing what happens to the scale on the axes as we zoom in.

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Next, we create the angle by using the Angle with Given Size tool. As the prompt says when you hover, the tool: select leg point, then vertex.  Rather than fix the angle, I want to make a slider so I can easily change it. I set the angle “a” making sure to leave the degree symbol in place (otherwise you get radians).  The slider then needs tweaking by double-clicking to set the max, min and increment.

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Next, I need to make the line segment a bit bolder by right clicking on it…

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..and change the properties of the point so it shows the coordinates to 2 decimal places, also using right click.

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We now have a tool that can tell us the co-ordinates.  Before using this, however, I think I would want pupils to do some work on paper, using Mike’s handout to get a feel for the numbers and get their own results.  To fill in this table:

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I feel that it’s useful that they have the opportunity to correct any measurement inaccuracies before the next step and this is where the computer helps.

As per the worksheet, a series of questions can be posed before using the calculator’s Sin and Cos functions to complete the following:

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From there we can easily start exploring what happens when the side length is not 1 and use the ideas of scaling and similar triangles.

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And then, of course change the angle again.

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Once this is all set up, it’s easy to display / hide the coordinates and maybe so some miniwhiteboard work to assess how well the class has grasped the use of the Sin and Cos functions. And then keep the coordinates, but hide the angle to demonstrate inverse Sin and Cos.

With some practise and familiarity with Geogebra you are spending less than 3 minutes on the computer.  If you like the idea of “Geogebra from a blank sheet”, click on the Geogebra category link at the top to see posts on using the same idea for other topics.

Just follow these steps and you’ll be OK at Enlargements

Here’s a statement which I don’t think will be too controversial – I would have thought maths teachers the world over would agree with this:

I want my students to gain a deep understanding of the mathematics, not just follow a procedure to get the right answer.

This is our aim. We don’t always get there. We have different ways of getting there. I have recently re-read this seminal paper by Skemp from 1976.

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In it he talks about Relational Understanding, which I have generally thought of as understanding of concepts, and Instrumental Understanding, which I think of as understanding of procedures.  In my teaching I have been inclined to build conceptual understanding first, and then see what methods make sense from there.  However, I’m starting to think that it’s not that simple.  There are some situations where some instrumental understanding might come first and act as a foundation on which to build relational understanding.  Ultimately we want both, but the order in which we achieve this is not always the same.  We should not dismiss a didactic approach that provides a clear sequence of steps and worked examples as a part of the journey to a deeper mathematical understanding.

I recently observed a colleague teaching the topic of Enlargements to a Year 11 revision class, who are entered for the Foundation paper.  He used a method which I don’t think I had thought of before.  It was heavy on the Instrumental Understanding, but it worked and the students were doing some more tricky fractional and negative enlargements with centres of enlargement not at the origin.  About as hard as it gets for these types of exam questions (thanks for Maths Genie for these examples)

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So, what was this wonderful method?  Well, it might be nothing new, but it used vectors.  It relied on students being secure with describing the translation between two points using vector notation.  Given that this is how Translations are described and that we typically teach Translations (along with Reflections and Rotations) before Enlargements in a topic called Transformations, this should be a build on / consolidating of what was learned a few lessons ago.

The steps go something like this.

  1. Label the vertices of the shape you’ve been given (say A,B,C,D, something like that)
  2. Circle the centre of enlargement, CoL (helpful to distinguish it from a vertex later)

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3. Find the vector that moves you from the CoL to each vertex.
4. Multiply each vector by the scale factor

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5. Now use those vectors to plot the new points, starting from the CoL again. Connect the vertices to form the shape.

6. Finally draw in some ray lines to convince yourself that you have not made any mistakes.

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I think that’s quite a neat method that enables us to go straight to what might be seen as the most difficult example. The only real difficulty here, however is multiplying a (pretty simple) negative fraction by an integer.  Something which should be secure by the time this topic is being taught. And if it’s not secure, well here is an opportunity to practise it without detracting too much from the main objective.

Another benefit, is that it might be easier for students to plot points by counting squares rather than draw accurate, extended ray lines, as pointed out by Mr Blachford on Twitter.

Once students have done a few examples, we can draw attention to some things, for example:

  • If the scale factor is >1, it gets bigger, if it’s <1 it gets smaller
  • The scale factor applies to each side length of the shape (but not the area…)
  • Negative scale factors always place the image the “other side of the CoL”
  • All ray lines must go through the CoL. This is how it is constructed.

I would use Geogebra (as in fact I did to create these images) to examine what happens when we move the CoL. (Note: If you are the in the default US language setting, Geogebra uses the terminology Dilation rather than Enlargement – which actually is more descriptive of what we are doing, isn’t it?!)

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And from there we can go onto questions that show the enlargement and ask for a description.  I would use Geogebra for that bit as well as it is very easy to create images that can then be used to ask learners to describe what they see.

Just for fun, I had a go at a 3D version in Geogebra.  I’l leave you to decide whether or not it adds anything. You should be able to access it here. This is what it looks like:

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This is a specific pedagogy for this topic.  It’s one way of doing it. For other topics, for example fractions, I would prefer to spend a decent chunk of time on building conceptual understanding before focussing on algorithms to get right answers. But that’s for another post…

 

 

 

 

The angle defines the ratio of side lengths in a right angle triangle

This post shows how to use Geogebra to demonstrate this fundamental truth in geometry and hopefully demystify Trigonometry to a certain extent.

As with all things Geogebra, I always try to start with a blank sheet (see other posts on this here and here).  This time, I’m not using the Geogebra app itself but just launching it from within a Chrome browser window which works pretty well.

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Once it is launched, I right click in the middle to remove the axes, but I am going to leave the grid on.

Then I create the triangle by constructing a line, a perpendicular line…

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…and a third point which I then join to create a triangle using the polygon tool.

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Next, measure the base angle of the triangle remembering the convention that angles are measured in an anti-clockwise direction.

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The next bit is a tad fiddly. You need to right click on the line segment to change the label to “value”.  Then do the same for the other two sides of the triangle so that you now have one angle and all three side labelled.

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So far, this has taken about 2 minutes to create from a blank screen.  You could do it in advance of the lesson, but I think it is worth doing it in front of the class, maybe having practiced it a couple of times.  Using “something I created earlier” is less powerful – it looks like some sort of trick, somehow.

Now you have everything set up you can start moving the points as shown here.

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I start by moving point B, thus keeping the angle fixed.  I would ensure students have calculators in front of them and ask them to calculate opposite divided by adjacent. Then move the triangle to get different values for side lengths. Then do the calculation again. The answer is the same, of course.  I might ask them how they could get that directly from the angle (tan angle).  Depending on where the discussion goes with that, I might then move on to look at sin and cos.

Finally, I always like to talk about how things were done in the old days, being careful to point out that I’m not that old and that I didn’t actually use these…crc_trig_tables.jpg

I explain that the sin button on your calculator is basically just looking up the values in the sin column of a table like this – not actually true, I know, but it helps understand what’s going on so that’s OK for me!

 

 

Circle Theorems with Geogebra – Part 2

This is the second post in this series.  Part 1 is here.

 

1, Tangents

What is a tangent?  If you look at a line and a circle, it can either not touch the circle at all, cut it in two places, or if we are really careful, just touch it in exactly one place.

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The special thing about a tangent is that there is only one line that can form a tangent at any point on the circle. If you move the line then the point of contact also moves.  Geogebra works by drawing both tangents from a point to the circle.  By putting points at the intersect you can see how they move.

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As you connect the points on the circumference to the centre, stop to ask what we know about the lines that have been drawn here.  Then what do we notice about the two tangent lines and radius as we move them?

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To prove the point we can measure the angle between the radius and the tangent:

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And measure some lines too, whilst moving things around a bit:

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We can deduce that DE = FD, by drawing in one more line and proving that we have congruent triangles AED and AFD.

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2, Cyclic Quadrilaterals

What is a quadrilateral? How many lines, how many vertices? So what is a cyclic quadrilateral? Once you’ve established this, draw one.

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Then go round measuring the angles. Before you move one of the points, ask students to predict what will change and what will stay the same.

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