The Visual Pythagorean Theorem Experiment

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The Pythagorean theorem is an important math concept that is applied everywhere in math and technology. The idea is simple in that a2 + b2 = c2 for a right angle triangle that has two sides, a and b, and a hypotenuse of c.

There are many proofs proving this is true using squares, trapezoids, and other triangles that can be found here.

But with all these math ideas and concepts, how are kids really grasping the idea that two sides of a triangle squared added together always equal the longer side squared? For the children that have more visual needs for learning, the Pythagorean theorem model can be a great experiment!

The easiest way to visually explain the Pythagorean theorem is by the use of three squares, one square matching each side length of the triangle your demonstrating on.

So a separate a square, b square, and c square are needed. The idea of this demonstration is that the a square and b square have the same combined area or volume as the c square. With these, there are two visuals you can create:

  1. The paper cut-outs are the easiest way to demonstrate the proof’s origin and understanding. There are pintables available along with video tutorials on how to go over it with children. Basically, the cut up a and b squares can be matched up like a puzzle on the c square, showing that they are equal. This is an easier method since the materials you need are only scissors and the printed pattern, being ideal for classrooms.
  2. The water model or sand model can make a cute project for a math and science fair. With the help of a guardian or parent, kids can make this unique project that uses volume to show how the Pythagorean theorem works by tilting the wheel, allowing the volume in c flow down filling up all of a and b. This project can be made by cutting out plexiglass and sealing it with caulking. Mounting it on a wheel allows people to come up and interact, tilting the wheel and watching the water or sand move.

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are such important fields of study. What better way is there to encourage children to learn than by creating experiments using math and science concepts.

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