I mentioned in my last post that students sometimes describe perimeter as the “outside of a shape” (as opposed to area being the “inside”.) Though it’s an easy answer to give, and an easy answer for a teacher to accept as being correct, I wanted to put my students’ understanding of perimeter on a more sure footing. I wanted to give students a clear definition, showing that when we use the perimeter, we’re talking about a *length*.

At the same time, the math involved in the perimeter of polygons is pretty simple: its the sum of the lengths of the sides. There’s a reason it’s introduced at third grade (in the Oklahoma standards, at least.) But while adding a set of numbers is pretty easy for a high school student, I wanted to layer in more challenge.

My students need to figure out the missing side lengths of the polygon before they can make that simple calculation. Or, they’ll get the perimeter and have to figure out something else. Given this unit has already covered theorems related to quadrilaterals, and the previous unit was on the Pythagorean theorem, special right triangles and trigonometry, I had lots of options of for how to make students determine the information they need.

Also, students complain all the time about word problems, which tells me they probably need more exposure to and practice with word problems. So I gave my students ten problems, for which they had to draw a diagram (as I hadn’t given them one) and show all their mathematical working.

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