I give my students a worksheet with three problem types:
- Find the area of a square
- Find the side length of a square whose area is a perfect square such as 25, 36, 49, etc,
- Estimate the side length of a square whose area is given but not a perfect square.
I like recapping every problem type from yesterday since it reminds students of our progression on Monday. It also provides an easier on-ramp for students who were absent on Monday.
The only difference today is that students are no longer allowed to use calculators. I want them developing their own strategies to estimate square roots.
Once we’ve reviewed the questions from the warm-up, I ask students to get out their $1 Textbooks. This is my name for my class’s interactive notebooks. I was skeptical of the time commitment required to do interactive notebooks well, but this year I buckled down and got it started. I realized that I don’t use a textbook in my class, so it’s my responsibility as a teacher to provide a resource to students so they can review the vocabulary and concepts that they are responsible for in my class. We write in our $1 Textbooks about 2-3 days a week, and rarely more than a single slide or two of notes. But at the end of the semester, my students have a marvelous study guide for their final exam.
We write down some review material about squaring numbers, and then I give a short speech about square roots and what that term means to me. I say that trees come in all shapes and sizes, but the thing that fundamentally determines their size is their roots. Similarly, squares come in all sizes, but their size is determined by their “roots,” which is the size of the base. If you want to draw a square with an area of 25 square inches, you need a square with a root of 5 inches. This is a bit of a silly analogy, but it provides some hook for this new vocab.
Once we write down our notes on squares and roots, I ask students to turn to the back of their warm-up sheet. Along the top you’ll see that I ask students to calculate the squares of the numbers from 1-10 and then find or estimate a bunch of square roots. I provide the top line because I know that some students will not immediately come up with their own strategy for estimating square roots.
Almost every student can find the square roots of perfect squares because the first row of the worksheet acts as an answer key. So if a student is having trouble with estimating roots, I ask them how to find the square root of 81. Then I ask why they are having trouble with the square root of, for example, 38. When they say something like “38 isn’t in this list of numbers,” I ask them to find the square number that is closest to 38 but a bit smaller. Then we find the closest square number that is close to 38 but a bit too big. We use those numbers to make our estimate, which should be between 6 and 7.
Once most students have completed the worksheet, we check the work as a class. I typically project my own worksheet using a document camera. I don’t love that I have to sit in the back of the room, as I can’t read my students’ facial expressions. But I like being able to manipulate the worksheet itself. That way my students can easily scan my sheet and their own to check their answers. Also, while I am writing estimates on the worksheet, I can find the square root using my calculator and show that on the document camera as well.
By this point, most students have noticed that all these square roots of numbers like 47 and 6 keep going to the end of the calculator. So I go into a quick math lesson about rational numbers, and how ancient Greeks thought that they were the only type of number that existed until they tried to find the area of a circle. I know this history lesson is rough (and not exactly accurate), but it taps into my students’ prior knowledge of pi and helps them to believe that the square roots of certain numbers are also irrational.
Then it’s time to write down some notes about rational and irrational numbers in our $1 Textbooks before the bell! Not the best time to introduce new vocab, I know. I’ll have to remedy that tomorrow.
IXL work on finding the square roots of perfect squares. My goal is for everyone to say “Mr. Haines, I finished the homework in like 2 minutes!”