Teaching Middle School Geometry


My first year of “real teaching” found me in a 6th grade class – Middle School – where teachers age like the president  – teaching math. While I am proficient at math, it is not my favorite subject.

Sorry to all those kids I taught math to for 10 years about lying how great math is and how it is used in every day life. When was the last time you found the hypotenuse of a right triangle? I thought so.

Early that school year I decided when dealt fractions and geometry I would make lemonade, or something like that. In most elementary and middle school math classrooms there are plastic buckets full of pattern blocks. Most of you may remember them; they are small blocks cleverly designed as shapes: triangles, squares, rhombuses, pentagons, etc each painted a different color.

In 6th grade we go beyond recognizing basic shapes, hopefully – by the way…6th grade boys begin recognizing certain curves and are very funny to watch interacting with the female species. My lesson that day was for the students to work in teams using the pattern blocks to design different shapes by combining the blocks and recording the number of sides of their creation. Bonus points went to anyone who could name their design. 10 sided figure = decagon, 11 sided figure = hendecagon, 12 sided figure = dodecagon.

The class was busy creating their shapes when I noticed a group of boys giggling in the back of the room. Doing my professional fly by of each table pretending I was actually interested in their design, I sauntered over to the group of boys. On their desk was their design: Two yellow hexagons (6 sided figures) side by side with one small green triangle in the middle of each one. “Mr. Karch, we made a boobagon!” My insides started to rumble kind of like I had a gas bubble. I was trying not to laugh and thinking of how to correct the situation. After about 30 seconds of internal moral strife, a giggle erupted and I lost it (I was in my 20’s, sorry). After composing myself, I congratulated the boys on their creativity, but told them in no uncertain teacher voice, NOT to record it on their paper.

(photo courtesy of Poulsen Photo/Freedigitalphotos.net)