The past two weeks have been dedicated to the study of the effects of transformations: translations, rotations, dilations and reflections of geometric figures on a coordinate plane. With this unit, I wanted to make sure students got lots of chances to talk about what is happening in mathematical terms. One of my favorite things we did in teaching transformations was to use match and paste activities. We actually used them TWICE in this unit. I can’t wait to show you just what we did and how it helped them OWN transformations.
Why use match & paste?
What I’ve noticed in prior years is that my students come in with a pretty good understanding of what each of action of transformations is. But they can have a hard time talking about these actions on a coordinate plane. They struggle to describe just how things are moving along the x-axis and y-axis.
Using match and paste activities were a great way to get hands-on practice with the topic. And it inspired A LOT of math talk. Students got lots of rich vocabulary opportunities while also physically showing their understanding.
Connecting to prior learning about geometric transformations
Dilations, translations, rotations and reflections are not totally new to my 8th grade students. Most of them have been learning about these geometric transformations for several years. I wanted an activity to start the unit that would refresh their memories and make a direct link to their prior learning.
I created a chart with three different ways to represent each of the four transformations:
First, they needed to match the picture representation with the correct math term.
Second, students had to match the math term with a simpler term, or synonym, to describe the movement (i.e. slide for translation).
Last, they needed to find the visual that represented the transformation in action.
This turned out to be the perfect introduction to the unit. Students worked in partners and got talking. I loved them starting the unit by talking rather than listening, and I quickly heard that they really did have enough prior knowledge to be able to talk about it! (Thanks 6th & 7th grade teachers! You rock!!!)
After completing this match and paste activity, they were ready to continue on with the rest of the discovery lab lesson we used to introduce the topic. (this activity is available as part of the Transformations Discovery Lab Lesson)
Talking about transformations with match & paste
On the second day of the unit, students got right to practicing continued to practice with a transformations match and paste activity. Since we’d already completed the discovery lab and topic notes, they were ready to start putting it into practice. I wanted them to be able to focus their attention specifically on the changes to the coordinates, or the effects, of each type of transformation.
Here’s what each student got:
- A copy of the chart with an original geometric shape on a coordinate plane
- 6 cards with sets of coordinate pairs
Students worked with a partner. Together they applied what they had learned by identifying which transformation created each figure described by the points.
This was different for students. They clearly weren’t used to working with just the coordinate pairs. They were much more comfortable looking at shapes and describing how they were related to each other. On only day 2 of the unit, this was a challenging task for most students.
Since students didn’t need to find points or calculate an answer, I heard great conversations that focused on justifying their reasoning. Students told their partner why they thought a set was describing a 90° rotation. They explained what made a set a dilation. Then, they argued that another set showed a reflection, or dilation, or another transformation.
The best part? Students had to come to an agreement and convince each other when they had different thoughts. Having students work in partners really allowed me to hear rich math talk. It also helped me know what I would need to spend more time on in the upcoming days.
Teaching transformations- did it work?
I wanted a review at the end of the unit to bring all students’ hard work and practice together again. When I gave them the match and paste on day 2, we only did one side of a double sided page. As we ended the unit, I realized that revisiting that activity would be a perfect way to wrap up!
Knowing middle school students as I do, I knew that most of them wouldn’t still have that paper in their possession. I ran some extra copies and got out my Jolly Ranchers. I told students that if they still had their copy of the match and paste activity, they would get a Jolly Rancher. If not, then I had an extra copy for them. Well, I apparently completed underestimated just what students will do for a Jolly Rancher! Let’s just say that I gave away far more Jolly Ranchers than expected, and far fewer extra copies!
For this round with the match and paste, students again worked in partners. They had to explain and justify to each other why they thought a set of coordinate pairs was created by a certain type of transformation. Then, they needed to come to an agreement. Students completed this board much quicker and with more confidence than our first time around. It was a great way to see how much they had improved over the unit.
Match and paste activities were a fun way for students to really focus on the effects of the four types of transformations. Teaching transformations with this activity provided hands on, interactive work with the topic. I really enjoyed the rich math talk and hearing them actually using these vocabulary terms to talk about shapes, coordinate pairs, and geometric transformations.
How about you? What topic do you think this approach would work for? I’d love to hear your experiences with matching activities in math! Want the sets I used for teaching transformations? They are available on TPT here (link to prior knowledge as part of the Effects of Transformation Discovery Lab) and here (Effects of Transformations Match and Paste)
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