Date: 9/2/96 at 21:42:55 From: Kathy Miller Subject: Geometry class How can I survive my first year of high school geometry? I am very confused. Even the first week's lectures about points and planes have me lost. Please help!
Date: 9/3/96 at 18:27:24 From: Doctor Tom Subject: Re: Geometry class Hi Kathy, Well, there's no guaranteed answer to your problem, but I can make a few suggestions. First off, geometry is often tough for people because it is pretty different from any math you've ever done before - the emphasis is usually not on numbers and measurement (although there is some), but on thinking about simple geometric shapes (points, lines, triangles, etc.). The teacher may be trying to be more precise than you like at the beginning. For example, if you think of points as dots on a paper, and lines as the pencil lines that connect them, you'll do fine. Of course, a "dot" should be really small, and a "mathematical dot" is really, really, really tiny, so what you really need to imagine is a perfect pencil, and so on. Actually, geometry is a funny subject in that a lot of people who were "good at" math before geometry have trouble in geometry class and those who had trouble suddenly find themselves doing better. The reason is that geometry represents a different kind of thinking - instead of thinking about symbols and calculations and stuff like that, you need to think about shapes and be able to think about how shapes interact. For example, here's a question. Try to work it in your head, not with a pencil. Imagine drawing 2 triangles on a piece of paper. What's the maximum number of times you can get the lines to cross? You'll find yourself thinking about sliding around triangles over each other in your mind's eye, and you'll probably notice some sloppiness in my question - what if the triangles lie exactly on top of each other, or share edges, or whatever? Eventually, you'll probably decide that if they can't share edges, 6 crossings (arranged like a Star of David) is about the best you can do. But you didn't do this with calculations like in algebra class, did you? Your "calculations" were more like moving shapes around in your mind. Of course, you can use pencils too, and that's a great help, and you MUST draw pictures of what the text says. Get together with your friends and try to make sense of it. This can work really well. Or find somebody who took the class last year to work on it with you. Or maybe your parents can help. Or you can ask specific questions here, of 'Doctor Math'. Or look in other geometry books - sometimes a different book will explain things in another way that makes more sense to you. I hope this helps a little. -Doctor Tom, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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