“Teaching” Proofs

We recently began trig proofs. I love trig proofs. To me they are a joyful puzzle.

My students don’t quite share my sentiments.


Today I heard: “I don’t know where to begin“, “This takes too long“, or “Show me what to do and I’ll do it“. Friday I worked out some examples. Students worked out examples. They worked together. I walked around and offered guidance. My suggestions included: finding a common denominator, factoring, using the identities (I gave them a sheet with them all listed – I’m not assessing their ability to memorize). Today was more of the same. We’ve seen multiple methods of proving the same thing. I find joy in this – yay, there’s more than one way! The students seem to find this annoying.

Aside from the open-endedness of the steps, what is giving them the most problems is the dreaded f-word.

One student summed it up pretty well, “The darn fractions finally caught up with me.”

I don’t know how to “teach” proofs. They want a step-by-step procedure. Unless I’m missing something, there isn’t one. Just play with it. Try something.

This entry was posted in First Year, Math, Problem Solving and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Teaching” Proofs

  1. Dan Meyer says:

    I haven’t taught trig proofs in several years but I really enjoyed opening it with some six degrees of [x movie star].

    Like, connect Tom Cruise to Tom Hanks.

    And then pointing out through the absurdity how there isn’t a formula for these kinds of problems.

  2. Jackie says:

    Nice. Totally trying that tomorrow. Thanks Dan! Yet again.

  3. Kristen says:

    I looove trig proofs!

  4. Pingback: Proof Update « Continuities

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