Investigation Frustration!

I've been trying to do more investigation/discovery activities with my geometry students.  Right triangles easily lend themselves to these types of activities, so I thought this unit would be a great place to start.  I knew that my kids lack persistence when solving problems, but I had no idea how bad it was.

Activity 1

The first activity I tried was for 45-45-90 triangles.
45-45-90 Special Right Triangles Investigation - trying to teach students persistence  |

I used it as a long warm up before I taught the lesson.  They were supposed to work with their partner.  I asked them to write all of their answers and explanations in complete sentences.  I read all of the questions aloud before letting them work.  I could tell we were in for a world of hurt when they started freaking out over #3.

"Write the Pythagorean theorem.  Write an equation in terms of x and h by substituting the side lengths in the formula."

After several painstaking minutes of them whining asking questions, I finally wrote it on the board.  Maybe that was a mistake…I don't know.  Then, when they read #4 about half of them put their head down and gave up, while the other half of them whined like 4 year-olds.  I gave them hints.  I made them squirm.  They never got what I wanted them to get out of it.  I ended up moving on to the notes.

I'm having a hard pinpointing exactly what went wrong.  First, I think that my kids weren't willing to slow down and actually read what #3 was asking them to do.  Since it wasn't totally obvious, they gave up.  I reinforced that behavior by leading them along.  However, I didn't know what to do to get them moving.  The only part that I thought could have been a little tricky was #4, but they wouldn't even write anything down.  It's not like it was just a few kids, it was the whole class.  I made them turn in what they had written.  When I read them later I got irritated when I read conclusions like "I hate math" and "This was ridiculously hard".

Activity 2

A colleague made a GeoGebra applet for the next investigation (30-60-90 special right triangles).

30-60-90 Special Right Triangles Investigation - geogebra applet and download - trying to teach students persistence  |

30-60-90 Special Right Triangles Investigation - geogebra applet and download - trying to teach students persistence  |

Again, I used it as a long warmup.

The students did a better job with this investigation, but they still didn't do great.  Even when their work was ok, their conclusions were terrible.


I think I need to model how to write good conclusions.  As much as these activities frustrated me, I think I need to do more of them in class.  Having them work in partners helped, but I think next time we should try one as a class.  That way, I can model exactly what to do.  If you know of a way that I can fix this or do a better job, please let me know!!