"Triangles ala Fettuccini"

HC prof uses pasta to help local students learn geometry
Huntington, Ind.—Patrick Eggleton, assistant professor of mathematics education at Huntington College, visited the Huntington North High School classroom of Mr. Jason Phillips on May 15. Professor Eggleton helped students grasp complex concepts of geometry with an inventive lesson he calls "Triangles ala Fettuccini."

Dr. Eggleton distributed handfuls of the flat noodles to students while relating a story about "a lazy guy named Antonio who had to measure roof trusses and determine that they were exactly the same measure." As they work with the fettuccini, students were challenged to "discover" congruent triangle theorems.

"I was trying to think up a way to make teaching triangle congruence more concrete for my college students," said Eggleton. "So often they think that we are learning concepts that they could not readily teach to children. I wanted to show them that they could at least emphasize the problem solving and reasoning aspects of mathematics in an activity related to triangle congruence. The activity grew from there."

Eggleton plans to submit the activity for publication in Mathematics Teacher, the journal of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

"New knowledge cannot be simply ‘put into’ a student," said Eggleton. "Plato recognized this in 400 BC. If anything, students will ‘rent’ a teacher’s knowledge for a short period of time, but it does not become ‘owned’ until they create the knowledge for themselves. ‘Triangles ala Fettuccini’ provides students with an opportunity to invent and own the knowledge related to triangle congruence."

Students at Huntington North High School responded very positively to the exercise.

"I think that this activity was a fun experience," said Stephanie Hopkins, a tenth grader. "It is a good thing because it lets you learn hands-on about congruent triangles. For the first time I got to actually see how congruent triangles worked instead of having to imagine it."

"I think this was cooler than just using a book or listening to a teacher," said freshman Andrew Stevens. "We actually got to do hands-on activities and see the triangles right in front of us."

"By using the fettuccini to create congruent triangles it helps you see the congruence, therefore it helps you to understand and remember the ways to prove triangles congruent," said Ashley Keller.

"It helped me learn specific orders of sides (S) and angles (A). I enjoyed geometry for the first time," said Shelly Jackson.

"This activity was more hands-on than anything usually done in math class, and more interesting because you can actually see for yourself why different things did or did not work," said Sabrina Carmichael. "It was definitely more fun than sitting and listening to someone talk about how triangles relate to dead guys. I think I'll remember the postulates better now, as well. It's like a pasta proof!"

"Everything went very well," said Eggleton. "Assistant principal Ken Kline was very enthused about the collaboration between HNHS and Huntington College."

Eggleton joined the faculty of Huntington College in 1999, and specializes in courses related to mathematics education. Eggleton is an active researcher and writer. His article, "Experiencing Radians," was the cover story of the September 1999 issue of Mathematics Teacher magazine. The lesson plan this article described was similarly "field-tested" in Huntington county schools.

Eggleton formerly served on the faculty of Berry College in Georgia. In addition, Dr. Eggleton taught a mathematics class at a Georgia high school, providing hands-on experience that helped him coach the mathematics student-teachers under his supervision. Eggleton also has five years of public high school teaching experience.

Eggleton completed his BS and MEd degrees at the University of South Florida and his PhD in mathematics education at the University of Georgia. His dissertation was titled, The Evolving Mathematical Philosophy of a Pre-service Mathematics Teacher.

Mathematics education is among nearly 50 academic concentrations available at Huntington College. The Christian liberal arts college is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in Huntington, Indiana.

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