What Makes a Triangle Right?

Stem School

In 8th grade math class, students were hard at work creating perfect squares of varying sizes and calculating the area of each. They used these squares three at a time to create a triangle in the center and determine which type of triangle was created. The 8th graders analyzed the relationship between the areas of the squares and the type of triangle. Eventually, the inquiry-based activity and guiding questions from the teacher led to the students' discovery of the Pythagorean Theorem, which states that the length of a hypotenuse squared is equal to the sum of the square of each leg. This is a highly complex theorem that becomes much more manageable and understandable when students are provided time for inquiry, trial, and discovery. Instead of memorizing a formula, these students are now equipped with the reasoning behind the equation and will therefore experience higher retention and engagement when faced with similar problems.