Create a Polygon Project

By: Mary Kienstra on: May 7, 2014  in: Engagement, geometry vocabulary, Math

Have you ever visited a Polygon Zoo?  It might be just the place for a group of math students!

Classifying polygons according to their attributes is a critical skill.  Students can listen to teachers talk about polygons, copy vocabulary words, and fill in worksheets, but handling the shapes and discussing them with a partner is where the they truly learn.  

This week my students created a polygon zoo.  A zoo is the perfect analogy of ways to classify things.  In a zoo, animals are grouped according to their attributes such as habitat, species, and food chain.  It is important to group the animals correctly so that they thrive in the zoo.  The same is true for polygons! They should be classified according to what attributes they share: how they are alike and how they are different.  

My third grade students had practiced different ways of classifying polygons with Venn Diagrams, but when I introduced the zoo, I knew they were hooked. Students worked with a partner to cut out the shapes.  Next, they began to discuss how they might groups these.  They used all the vocabulary words you’d hope to hear such as acute, obtuse, convex, concave, and hypotenuse.  They were totally engaged in this!

They drew cages to house their polygons as they discussed which polygons would go where.  When they had decided where to put them, they glued them down on large pieces of paper.  Of course they had to decorate them also.  One group even included a doughnut shop at their zoo.

After they had categorized all the shapes, they were required to explain their strategy.  In the past, they’ve presented to the class or written a paragraph to explain how they placed the polygons.  This year, however, they used the “Explain Everything” app to present their project.

The best thing about Explain Everything is that they can take a picture of their zoo and then explain how they decided to categorize their shapes.  The first step to this process was to write a script.  To third graders, writing a script is different than writing an explanation.  The script includes all the same thinking, but seems to be much more interesting than writing a paragraph!  After the script, they recorded their voices explaining their thinking and their video was complete!

Once again, audience changes everything. Students categorized the polygons, discussed their strategies, and explained their thinking in a video that their classmates and parents can watch.  They all were engaged in the project and met the targets as they produced this creative project.  I wonder who might want to visit this polygon zoo!

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