Cutting Out the Pythagorean Theorem

I taught the Pythagorean Theorem to my 7th graders earlier in the year using a variety of methods.  I wanted them to not only see but experience and even touch the theorem.  However, the activities did not go as well as planned.  As easy as it seemed to show them how this beautiful theorem worked, it was much harder in practice.  Middle school students are very visual.  And, unless instructions are explicitly clear, they can easily veer off course.  This is not their fault, and in fact is one of the most endearing things about middle school students.  They are really just so excited about learning that they often dive right in and usually leap before they look!

When I tried to do this activity with my 7th grade instructions went awry, and my students were confused instead of enlightened.  So, I learned from my mistakes, and decided to try again with 6th grade.  But this time, I created a visually precise Powerpoint presentation for the 6th graders to follow.  I let them draw, color, cut, and glue.  They were engaged, they were able to follow along, and they understood!  This activity gave me multitudes of the infamous “light bulb” gasps that I crave!   Since I did this activity, I just remind them of the area of the squares when they incorrectly make the hypotenuse a leg length, and they get it.

  • Required Materials:  Centimeter graph paper and scissors.  I cut the graph paper in half (hamburger) to conserve paper.
  • Suggested:  Colored pencils or markers and a glue stick*.
The night before the activity have them read about the Pythagorean Theorem in their book.  Have them write down the definition, the diagram, and the formula in their notes.  In class the next day, have one student read the definition from their book.  Ask them what they think about it.  When they say, “What in the world does that mean?” and “That sounds like Chinese!”, tell them, “No, it’s GREEK!” and then start the Powerpoint.  Color and cut with them, then sit back and bask in the “light bulb” gasps!
* I had them glue the 25 on and then glue the whole thing in their Geometry Booklets.

One thought on “Cutting Out the Pythagorean Theorem

  1. What a fantastic presentation! You took a common exploration and really broke it down in manageable steps. My students loved the all the special effects. Thank you for sharing!

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