We have just concluded our maths unit on angles and it occurred to me how much fun we’ve had over the last few weeks! Here are a few learning engagements for teaching angles that I have found to be very fun and highly beneficial. Keep in mind that I used these with Year Four students and not always with the whole class. Keep your students’ individual needs in mind before choosing to adopt any of these.
An angles unit is an ideal opportunity to introduce your students (and maybe yourself) to the basics of coding. It’s relatively easy to create animations that demonstrate particular concepts. We used Scratch towards the beginning of the unit because I wanted to reinforce what angles actually are. They are not two lines sticking together or the distance between two lines; angles measure turn. There are commands for this on Scratch. With a basic knowledge of degrees and a lot of perseverance and problem-solving, students can create animations that will help themselves and others. Click here to see my students’ final animations. Their end results might look simple, but click ‘see inside’ to get an understanding of the complex thinking that went into them.
There are some angles that students must be able to recognise. These are right angles (90°), half turns (180°), three-quarter turns (270°) and complete turns (360°). I would also argue that the halfway points between these are also important. I was playing with K’NEX with the kids during Golden Time and saw an opportunity. The white pieces, in particular, are ideal for reinforcing these key measurements because pieces can be connected every 45°. The students made models and then annotated them on Seesaw.
Estimating angles game
This simple game from NRICH (one of my favourite sites for maths ideas) was a classroom obsession for a while. The kids absolutely loved it and were keen to practise at home. Especially when we made it competitive, the engagement was through the roof! It’s a fun way to practise estimating angles. It also allows students to apply their knowledge of angle types and the key angles mentioned above. As a class, we usually commentate as it turns (“45°, 90°, 135°…). It is available at different levels and awards points based on accuracy. I also appreciate how the turns don’t always start from horizontal or vertical positions. The first time we guessed exactly right, the class went insane! I had to take a photo of this miraculous moment!
Another way of integrating coding is to get the robots out. The abilities to move forward and rotate are standard with even the cheapest options. Again, it’s another way to reinforce that angles are a measurement of turn while also introducing the basics of coding. Try setting a path for the robots or adding obstacles for them to move around. For an added challenge, remove ‘clockwise’ as an option and force students to calculate the degrees from an anti-clockwise direction. For example, instead of turning 135° clockwise, they would have to go 225° anti-clockwise.
This game is a no-tech alternative to the robotics idea above. Instead of sending commands to robots, students can send them to their blindfolded friends! There are a few variations of this game, but they all involve students giving commands to their blindfolded partners to reach some sort of goal. For example, they could first locate some sort of ‘weapon’ and then use it to take out one of the other teams. This could be throwing a soft ball at them or jabbing them with a foam sword. Each group takes it in turns to give three commands. These involve turning so it’s a great way to reinforce direction, angles and degrees.
This is an idea that I saw circulating social media. It’s so simple! Simply tape up your board/tables using masking tape to create intersecting lines and loads of angles to explore! On a smaller scale, students could create their own on paper. These can be used for classifying, estimating and measuring. Furthermore, this was a great way for students to discover concepts such as opposite and corresponding angles. It was also useful to reinforce that angles on a straight line should add up to 180° and angles around a single point should add up to 360°.
— Nicholas Springer (@NSpringerMath) September 12, 2018
Explain Everything video explanations
Protractors are fiddly little things and there are several ways that they can be misread. Teaching children how to use them can be challenging in itself, but getting them to explain the process is another level entirely. In this activity, students created video tutorials to demonstrate and verbally explain how to use a protractor and how to avoid the common mistakes. We also encouraged them to use key vocabulary in both English and Chinese. These videos can now be used to help other students. I’m a big fan of Explain Everything for this kind of video creation, but it would also work with other screencasting tools. Simply prepare the pages/slides in advance with a protractor ready to use (search for transparent images using the Google filter) and then talk and manipulate the visuals while recording.
What other activities have you used to teach angles? I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic. As always, feel free to leave a comment below. If you are interested in any of the above ideas but need a little more guidance, just let me know. I’d be happy to help.
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