My initial thoughts on the nervousness was that being able to hold some of the geometric objects in their hand would help make geometry less mysterious. Today I tried out that idea by using our Zometool set to study the volume formula for a pyramid.

This is something that we’ve looked at previously after seeing this amazing tweet from James Key last December:

Today, before moving to the pyramids, we started with an easier question – how do we find the area of a triangle:

Now we took a second look at the 3d printed pyramids that we’d made for the James Key-inspired project. What do they pyramids suggest for the formula for the volume of a pyramid?

Next we moved on to chopping a cube up into pyramids with our Zometool set. The fun thing here was that the kids did not make the same shape / division into pyramids that we’d just looked at. Fun!

Double fun is that this shape, by luck, is quite similar to a shape that a different kid had made a few years ago when she was playing around with our Zometool set. I was especially excited about her creation because she had assured me that she “hated” math before playing around with our Zometool set for a hour 🙂

Triple fun is that at the end of this video my younger son suggests that we should try to recreate the other dissection with the Zometool set!

So, here’s the dissection we looked at in the 2nd video. The kids finished this construction fairly quickly, but there was still a great conversation during the building.

As I saw in the video, I actually find it pretty difficult to visualize this dissection. Holding the shape in your hand really helps me see it (either via the Zometool set, or the 3d printed pieces).

So, I feel pretty good about the idea that the Zometool set would help calm the nerves of kids who were a little worried about geometry. Holding the shapes in your hands sure helps makes some of the formulas and ideas in geometry much less mysterious.