In the spirit of Trampoline Math, our Math Club last week opened with some new Simon Says activities. Our exploration into square numbers and then the Pythagorean Theorem also led us into discussing angles and triangles.

The angles being: obtuse (bigger than 90 degrees), accute (smaller than 90 degrees), and right (90 degrees exactly). The triangles being equilateral (all 3 sides are equal in length), isosceles (2 sides are equal in length), and scalene (no sides equal in length). We also covered right triangles…the special kind of polygon where two of the sides form a right angle.

Was that as boring to read as it was to type?! Yes, methinks so. So, I’ll tell you how we talked about angles and triangles the fun way…using our bodies.

right angle, using your arms:

Acute angle, using your arms, arm, or fingers:

Once the kids got comfortable making angles, they started making them with whatever part of their bodies they could. Note that there are three different models of acute angles: Naturalist is using one arm and bending it way closed to make her angle…her friend T is using two fingers spread only a little wide to make his, while golfer is doing the two armed style. Later on they used legs, feet, wrists..anything with a hinge.

After a few warm ups to get everyone on board the angle train, we started Simon Says…Simon Says make an acute angle, Simon Says make an obtuse angle, Simon Says make a right angle with your leg, Simon Says make an acute angle with your arm…etc. etc.:

As you can see, this is multi-age friendly. Lots of laughs were had.

With only 3 angles, it didn’t take long for that part of it to be over with, so then we moved on to the triangle part of it. All the kids were in one group, and when I named a triangle they had to choose who would help make it with their body. For instance, I said, “Equilateral Triangle” and even though I’m pretty sure none of my kids could give the definition correctly, they knew that they had to find 3 kids that were the same height. It’s just another way of processing information…they don’t really connect to a triangle on a sheet of paper, and having 3 equal sides doesn’t really matter to them…until they have to construct one using their friends.

So here’s as close as we could get to equilateral:

They tried to build an isosceles triangle standing up, which didn’t really work…it looked more like a pentagon:

so they had to reform to make it on the ground:

I have to say, one of the most fun parts was rolling the younger kids into position…Sassy in particular is very ticklish:

Most interesting of all was making a right triangle. We knew, from the Pythagorean experiments we’d done the last week, that important numbers were 3,4, and 5…because if you take the squares of 3, 4, and 5 you end up with a right triangle. The kids set about finding a similar ratio that applied as a relationship to their sizes, and decided that my three would be perfect to make it:

Aren’t my kids simply and elegantly gorgeous? And photogenic?! Anyway, getting back to the triangle, sure enough, they were able to make a perfect right triangle:

would you like to see another angle of the right triangle? of course you would:

I found this fascinating to watch. The word ‘hypoteneuse’ doesn’t mean a whole lot to my kids until they started making their own body triangles, then they realized that the tallest person would always be the hypoteneuse, and that was always the line across from the right angle.

We did some other things, namely, building and playing with shapes:

but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, I’ll end with the observation that kinesthetic math is a powerful learning tool, and easily adaptable to most math concepts in a variety of ways. Math Simon Says has been a really versatile tool in our multiage gathering!

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