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Numerical legerdemain

Author(s): Timothy Chambers


Source: The Mathematics Teacher, Vol. 91, No. 6 (SEPTEMBER 1998), p. 451
Published by: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27970607
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Reader Reflections on a new method of classifying the
families of proofs of Pythagoras.
After completing 180-odd proofs, we
are confident in saying that each
of the 180-odd can be proved using
A paradigm shift given a more in-depth look at the prealgebra class to provide
similar triangles. See figure 1
the topic. needed support for these students.
"Seventy-five students in one (Greenbury).
Some advantages for the Jolene Schoenherr
classroom?you must be kidding."
teacher were evident within the Concord High School
Not my exact words, but close I Our original triangle is this: I
enough. first few months: Elkhart, IN 46517
When I started teaching high Interruptions were fewer. One
school mathematics eleven years teacher could teach the lesson Numerical legerdemain
ago, a lower level mathematics while the other teachers dealt In a recent network television
class was not the preferred one to with office interruptions, stu special featuring accomplished
teach. If, however, you did teach a dent inattentiveness, and stu magicians, a guest invited viewers
C b A
lower level class, it was better to dent questions. to participate in the following
have a small number of students. "interactive" trick. Teachers
Teacher preparation time was The clockwise rotation of the
Class size between twelve and six decreased, since three teachers might also like to challenge their
students with this bit of right angle gives this
teen was considered preferable, so shared responsibility for the configuration:
that individual help could be given. lessons. mathematical sleight of hand.
I teach at Concord High School Viewers were told to construct
Being able to see other teach
in Elkhart, Indiana, and class a trio of cards: the first having a
ing techniques and to share 1 on one side and a 2 on the
size was no different until the
ideas were positive points.
1996-1997 school year. Two of other, the second card having a 3
It was fun to teach with others, on one side and a 4 on the other
my colleagues, Cary Anderson and
especially when teaching a side, and the last having a 5 on
Todd Kirkton, were responsible lower level class.
for a drastic change in class size. one side and a 6 on the other side.
It was easier to take care of Next, the magician instructed the
After attending a workshop on
inclusion and reading a paper on make-up assignments and viewer to place the cards in a row
tests. before him, even-numbered sides
remediation and enrichment, they
proposed a large-class, team Two other teachers could take up, with the 2 on his left, the 4 in
teaching approach to prealgebra. over the class if a teacher the center, and the 6 to the right.
needed to be absent. Viewers were then invited to switch
Talk about a paradigm shift.
Students were randomly Feedback from students and the cards' linear positions as much The anticlockwise rotation of the
assigned to one of three prealgebra as they pleased, for example, right angle gives the following:
parents has been positive. Students
classes. The schedule was arranged interchanging the 2 and 6 cards.
say that they received help when The final instruction: turn over
so that the three teachers taught help was needed?no waiting.
prealgebra during the same hour. the card furthest to your left.
Students appreciated the three "Now," queried the magician, "I
We combined all three classes in
different teaching personalities. could not know the sum of the
a lecture room?giving us If they related better to a
between sixty and seventy-five three cards facing you now! Or
particular teacher and felt more could I?" With a wily grin, the
students in one room with four
comfortable asking that teacher magician then revealed that he
teachers, that is, three questions, they could do so.
mathematics teachers and a knew that the sum of the viewer's
The important question yet to B' C'C A
cards was 11.
special-needs teacher. be answered is, What about
The reasons behind this Mind-reading magic? Not quite.
student learning? My hypothesis A moment's reflection reveals that These figures can be seen to be
change were as follows: is that our students are learning as at the outset, the sum of the equivalent if the original
much or more than their counter triangle and the transformed
This system gives support to numbers shown on the cards is 12.
the student. parts in individual classrooms, triangle are interchanged.
Mixing the cards clearly does not The method of classification
After a test, students can be despite the larger class size. We change this sum. Finally, given
are using pretest and posttest of these figures is carefully
separated into a remediation the construction of the cards?
developed to place C in many
group or an enrichment group. data along with state test data to the opposite side of each is the points of intersection, lines,
try to answer this question. preceding odd number?the sum
With a different teacher doing
The teachers of this prealgebra of the cards could not fail to be 11. and areas, in virtually an infi
the remediation, the students class did have some concerns about nite number of positions. Each
have a second chance to grasp Timothy Chambers figure provides a different
the next year of mathematics for our
the material. Timothy .Chambers proof, but all the proofs use
students. Algebra was the logical @Brown.edu
Retesting follows remediation. next step. Therefore, this year, an essentially the same method.
Providence, Rhode Island
The enrichment group can be algebra class was patterned after 02906 Fig. 1 (Greenbury)
New method of classification

We appreciate the interest and value the views of those who write. Readers com Pythagorean
menting on articles are encouraged to send copies of their correspondence to the transformations What then is the similar triangle
authors. For publication: All letters for publication are acknowledged, but With respect to 'Tleader Reflections: proof for Kyle Dresback's proof
because of the large number submitted, we do not send letters of acceptance or
Pythagoras using transformations" that appeared on page 67 of the
rejection. Please double-space all letters to be considered for publication. Letters
should not exceed 250 words and are subject to abridgment. At the end of the let on page 571 of the October 1997 January 1997 issue, shown as
ter include your name and affiliation, if any, including zip or postal code and issue of the Mathematics Teacher, figures 2 and 3 (Greenbury)?
e-mail address, in the style of the section. Peter Barcham and I are working (Continued on page 510)

Vol. 91, No. 6 ? September 1998 451

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