Paula Beardell Krieg’s 72 degree question

A few weeks ago I got this question from Paula Beardell Krieg on Twitter:

Today I went through this problem with the boys – the difficulty of this exercise surprised me a bit. They really struggled to see how you could tell if an angle was 72 degrees.

Here’s the introduction. The boys noticed a few things about the picture and got some ideas with how to proceed:

Next we drew the two squares on a piece of paper and I let the boys explore the question. Here they struggled to make much progress beyond the things that they noticed in the first part of the project:

The thing giving them trouble was that they didn’t know any relationships between angles in a right triangle with a 72 degree angle. That left them completely stuck. Eventually they decided to measure the squares and found that they had something that looked like a triangle with side 1, 3, and \sqrt{10}.

Next we explored some of the ideas around 1, 3, \sqrt{10} triangles. After a little nudging from me they decided to measure the angles with a protractor.

Now I showed them my solution and let them see where the 1, 3, \sqrt{10} triangle comes up:

Finally, I let them play with two sets of triangles that I printed overnight. Two of these triangles are right triangles with 72 and 18 degree angles, and two of them are 1, 3, \sqrt{10} triangles. The question is -> are all 4 triangles the same?

Here are pictures (to scale) of the two triangles. You can see how similar they are.

First, the right triangle with a 72 degree angle:

72 degree picture

Second, the 1, 3, \sqrt{10} triangle:

one three root 10 picture.jpg

Tomorrow we’ll explore a second similarity between these two triangles. I found it playing around while I was making the triangles yesterday 🙂