Mathematics education uncovered and recovered

# Power of words

That was hard. My 12-year-old student struggled with angles. Why is one angle greater than another? How do we measure angles? When do we need to add them? She couldn’t get her head round these questions, and I couldn’t work out why. She started to get more and more confused and upset, so I gave her an unrelated task and left the room to think the situation over.

The situation was puzzling. I had known the girl for a couple of years and have never seen her so frustrated. She had always responded well to my explanations, and I thought that we had similar thinking patterns. Apparently it didn’t work this time. I started trying to put myself in her shoes. A shy girl who played the piano and liked to draw. What kind of images could I use to convey the idea of the size of an angle?

“Look, it’s just like a fan opening. As you open it, the angle increases” turned out to be the miraculous words she desperately needed to hear. With a smile of relief, she quickly answered all the earlier questions, and the lesson went back to normal.

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