Math Tourist: Monticello & Octagons

Essential Questions for students (objectives):  What attributes of an octagon make it special?

Supplies:   video (length -3:50), note-maker
CCSS:  3.G.1,Social Studies – Thomas Jefferson & Monticello
Instructional Format: Video, student problem-solving, group work         Time needed: 30 - 60 minutes

Vocabulary for a Word Wall: attribute, octagon

Description: There are many ways to use this video in your math class.  First of all, I did film it for a 3rd  grade class, but you can use it any time that you are working with attributes of geometric shapes.   The upshot of this lesson is the connection between regular polygons, angles, and architecture.  The idea is for students to investigate attributes of polygons and then specifically narrow it down to regular octagons.   Students explore what happens to the angles of a polygon as more sides are added.  A great classroom conversation would be for students to research the inventions of Thomas Jefferson that are highlighted at Monticello and see how many connect to mathematics.  Here is a note-maker for students to use as they watch the video and explore the attributes of polygons.

1) You can show this video (3:50) at the beginning of a unit on geometric attributes as a hook that will keep the students interested in learning about the skill.  You can have them discuss/work on the questions from the video at the end of daily lessons (or once a week) armed with new knowledge that they are exploring in class.  Or you could revisit the video at the end of the unit as a formative check to see what the students have learned about geometric attributes and whether they can apply that knowledge.

2) You could show this video as a warm-up activity after the students have learned about geometric attributes.  It is a great way to show context to geometric problems and questions. 

Extensions:  Go on a live web tour of Monticello ( and explore the other inventions and how they use mathematics.

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