My grade 5/6 class began a unit on geometry this week. They were less than impressed when we sat down to discuss triangles; one student said it felt like they were back in kindergarten and several others agreed. I asked them to identify 3 triangles I had placed on the learning carpet; only a few could properly identify the isosceles, scalene and equilateral triangles.
They argued that knowing the terminology for classying the triangles was not a skill that they needed.
I told them that I would give them an hour; they had that time to create a plan to convince me to remove one of the triangles from our lesson plans.
They quickly broke off into groups and began discussing why they shouldn’t be taught about the different types of triangles.The math conversation was rich, they drew on their prior and peer knowledge to describe their triangles and began sketching models, (using protractors, which we hadn’t pulled out yet, to check their angles) and building posters.
Within the hour they had organized a protest and were armed with signs. They marched through the halls of the school chanting against their triangles.
I sent out a brief Google Drawings task the next day, asking them to classify and describe each triangle and all but 2 of the 25 students were 100% successful (a great success rate in a heavily modified/accommodated classroom).
This activity; stepping away from a worksheet and into large scale exploration,reaffirms by belief that students learn best when they are engaged actively in math activities.