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Learning Experience/Unit

The Pythagorean Theorem by NYSATL


English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)

Grade Levels

Intermediate, Commencement, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade

Learning Context/ Introduction

Purpose and Curricular Connections
In this Learning Experience, students create a written report on Pythagoras while learning how to solve real-life problems using the Pythagorean Theorem.

This activity was designed to be used in Math A and Math B, Occupational Mathematics class as an introductory activity to Right Triangle Geometry, only after the teacher has finished the topics of solving equations, exponents and radicals. It took approximately two weeks to complete, and students worked out of class in conjunction with the mathematics being practiced and tested in the classroom.

This Learning Experience was designed to be an interdisciplinary lesson between math and ELA and both the math and ELA teacher were responsible for "check points" along the way to make sure the students were getting their work done. The activity was carefully evaluated by the ELA teacher, as he/she taught the students various essay/research writing techniques and brought students to the library and computer labs to use word processing programs and the Internet.

Prior Knowledge:
Solving equations, exponents and radicals.
Basic computer skills, expanded during the learning experience with instruction in Microsoft WORD.
Experience preparing reports.
Word Processing skills.


To develop this project it took me about one week to lay out the framework. The students were assigned this project on a Monday and it was due the second Friday from the assigned date. The teacher should check the progress of the project as the students move through the phases of the project. This will ensure that the students do not fall behind in their work.

It is important to realize that each one of these projects will take the math teacher about 1/2 hour to grade (check for mathematical accuracy) and the ELA teacher about 1/2 hour (check for grammar and mechanics). The Math and ELA teachers need to arrange time when they can communicate on the progress of the students.

Instructional/Environment Modifications

Arrangements are made to use the media center and computer lab for computers with word processing and Internet connections. It has been taken into consideration that not all students have Internet access at home, so the students will have the opportunities to work in ELA class, lunch, before school and after school on this project. Media Specialists will have books on Pythagoras, Encyclopedia CD-ROMs available, as well as print sets. The Media Specialists will also direct the students to the proper use of the Internet in school, as well as at home. Arrangements with English teacher on our team will be made to teach the students how to write an essay with documentation. In the classroom, calculators are provided for this project.

Students with disabilities will be given extended time, if so stated on their IEPs. The Special Education Teacher will be kept up to date on what is going on in the classroom as this project progresses.


On the first day of this project, the Math Teacher lays down the framework for this project. The expectations will be clearly introduced, as well as the grading procedure. (See Resources: Pythagoras Paper Guidelines and Applications of the Pythagorean Theorem.)

The students will explore who Pythagoras was, and complete a 3 to 5 page research paper, with diagrams. Much of this part will be done with the ELA Teacher. The students will also complete four real-life problems involving the Pythagorean Theorem. (See Resources: Pythagorean Theorem and Real Life.)

This is a two-week project (out of class for math, in class for ELA) activity and counts as a test grade (separate for each class). Students will be given a list of questions that must be answered on who Pythagoras was (the questions must have references and be answered in essay form). Students will have access to computers with Internet connections, as well as encyclopedias during ELA class. (See Resources: Math Rubric and ELA Rubric.)

By various forms of student evaluation in class, the teachers are assessing that each student is doing his/her own work on the project and spending adequate time completing nightly homework assignments. Much of this was in the form of informal questioning, both by the ELA teacher and myself, as we saw the students before class, in the hall, in the library and/or in school. We also had formal checkpoints that were in the form of verifying that the students had references, material, rough drafts, etc.

When the project is over, the students should have a richer understanding of who Pythagoras was, how the theorem is used, how to write a research paper and how to access data through various forms of media.

Student Work

  • Pythagoras Report - 1
  • Pythagoras Report - 2
  • Resources

    • Computers with word processing and Internet connections
      • students will have to do internet searches on Pythagoras
    • Encyclopedias - print and CD-ROMs
    • Books on Pythagorean Theorem
    • Additional Support Materials:
  • Applications of the Pythagorean Theorem - Word Doc
  • Applications of the Pythagorean Theorem - PDF

  • Pythagorean Theorem and Real Life
  • Pythagoras Paper Guidelines - Word Doc
  • Pythagoras Paper Guidelines - PDF
  • Math Rubric - Word Doc
  • Math Rubric - PDF
  • ELA Rubric - Word Doc
  • ELA Rubric - PDF
  • Assessment Plan

    • The performance indicators were assessed by the use of two rubrics used together:
      • ELA Rubric Pythagorean Paper Guidelines
      • Math Rubric Applications of the Pythagorean Theorem
    • The ELA teacher will correct paper for grammar and mechanics.
    • The Math teacher will correct paper for mathematical accuracy.
    • The Math teacher will assign at most 12 points.
    • The ELA teacher will assign at most 8 points.
    • These points will be added together to get a final point value, which will be converted to a grade, using the point sheet shown on the Math Rubric.  That same grade will be given in BOTH classes.

    Student Work

    The student work shown below received a 4 on both the ELA and Math Rubrics, for a 100% score.

  • Pythagoras Report - 1
  • Pythagoras Report - 2
  • Author

    Franco DiPasqua, Frontier Central School District


    Comments from Franco DiPasqua:
    This activity was a great way to get my students to do a research project on a great mathematician. Not only did they get to do the math involved, but they received an opportunity to integrate ELA into the project as well. When the students completed this take home project, they seemed enlightened about who Pythagoras was, why we study the Pythagorean Theorem, and how the Pythagorean Theorem is used.

    I recommend to any math/ELA team that they do this project. It makes the students see the connections between math and ELA. I have done much work with the Pythagorean Theorem in the past, but it just did not seem to have a "flair" to it.

    Now that I have done it this way, the students are excited to get on the Internet and start exploring, they are excited about finding facts about Pythagoras (someone who lived thousands of years ago) and they like the connection between math and ELA (something which is not often seen).

    (After carefully examining my students' work, it is evident they many of them have mastered the topics based on the rubrics. These students have clearly met the defined standards, both in Math and ELA. For those students who did not meet the standards, remediation was offered through after school assistance and on going discussion in class. During those sessions, I revisited the Theorem and who Pythagoras was. Also, the ELA teacher revisited how to write a report using the proper grammar, mechanics and format.)

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