First, we did an activity to help them discover how the sum of the legs squared equals the hypotenuse squared. The activity came from Hands-On Standards Grades 7-8. Our county has one set of the book and manipulatives for the middle school teachers to share, and it is wonderful! You can tell my students love getting their hands on the math. This activity uses one-inch squares and angel-legs (my favorite for all the things you can do with them).

After a few days of practice using the Pythagorean Theorem, I proposed what I call "the Jerry question". They're always asking me "when am I ever going to use this", and when I saw the State Farm commercial about Jerry driving his car up a pole.

I asked my students, what if you were the insurance adjuster that gets called out to this claim? How are you going to write in the report how high up the pole that Jerry has driven his car? You wouldn't very well want to measure that distance! You could measure how far away from the base of the pole that the end of the car is, then you could look up to length of the car to use as the hypotenuse, and wallah! The Pythagorean Theorem would work like a charm! We just used estimation, based on Jerry's height, but they got the idea.

And just for fun, here are some of their favorite Pythagorean Theorem comics:

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