(contributor: Rachel Jones)
How does Rachel help her students to see algebra in the topic of trigonometry?
I noticed that many of my students were struggling to solve trigonometry problems with “rules” or “tricks”. I wondered why. Instead of rules or tricks, I show my students how trigonometry problems are actually substitution problems that they can use their algebra skills to solve. Below are my teaching notes and student examples.
- Rachel’s notes and student samples of algebra used in trigonometry
From the Algebra Programme Overview, Level 5 Right Angle Triangles
Level 5 Right Angle Triangles from Anna Nov 2010
What are Rachel’s important messages?
In no particular order, the team from our school has learned:
- What we have done is not new but it brings together a lot of ideas we’ve had for a while about how we can teach algebra.
- We feel that the New Zealand Curriculum (2007) has gone the right direction with the number and algebra strand being an umbrella over the other ones (i.e. geometry, measurement, and statistics).
- We realised that we need to introduce algebra through context (e.g., geometry, measurement, fractions) and we have achieved this with our new Year 9/10 programme.
- We come back to the skills on a regular basis and this need for revisiting skills can be seen in our new Year 9/10 programme).
- We use the correct terminology right from the beginning.
- We demonstrate rigour in setting out our working because mathematics is the language of numbers and just like English, mathematics has rules. We show our students how to set out their work vertically and this means they can only use one equals sign per line.
- We realised that we need to scaffold our students with differentiated levels of work by:
– Adding skills and knowledge to the toolbox
– Building on what students already know and revisiting those skills and concepts
– Reviewing important skills and ideas
– And extending skills and ideas
- We’ve noticed that there is no replacement for enthusiasm. If we show passion and excitement for mathematics our students can’t help but become interested too.