When I was a kid, I used to love playing pool. And for a while, I even thought I was pretty good at it. Then, in my early teens, our annual ski vacation found us in a rented cabin with a pool table. After a hard day of skiing, we decided to play a relaxing game of pool.
“Playing pool is easy,” said my dad, an engineer and “good at math”, a trait he neglected to pass on to me. “It’s just geometry.” And that was the moment when any aptitude I had for playing the game of pool up and died. Thanks, Dad.
But Rachel Perkins, a math teacher at Barren County High School in Glasgow, Kentucky, has been able to keep her students interested in geometry. They might even love it. She’s been teaching her students geometry using origami using the Epson DC-20 document camera she won through the Epson “Document Camera in the Classroom” contest.
“Using the document camera, the entire class gets to watch my hands move the compass and the straight edge,” explained Ms. Perkins. “As I fold origami, we talk about perpendicular bisectors because, as you’re folding, you bisect angles and line segments.”
According to Ms. Perkins, origami also makes teaching area formulas easier. “When we create something like a sliding star, it’s an octagon. So we found the area of the octagon, and the trapezoids within the octagon. All the shapes are in there—it’s a real life application of all those formulas I’m making them memorize.”
The document camera has had surprising benefits in the classroom. Ms. Perkins finds that doesn’t need to repeat herself as often, and she uses the camera to take still shots that she can leave up on the screen for her students to use as reference. But the best part was how it helped the shyer students ask for assistance.
“A few students wouldn’t leave the ‘comfort zone’ of their desk to come to the front of the class to see what I was doing,” said Mrs. Perkins. “The document camera makes them more comfortable asking me to repeat something, because they don’t have to leave their seat.”
For me, thinking about the “angle bisector” and “perpendicular bisectors” makes my eyes cross. But I love origami and geometry is now making more sense to me—although too late for a misguided career as a pool hustler, so perhaps that’s a good thing. I just wish that my teacher had used origami to teach me geometry.