I was good at math in high school, and for that reason, I was, and remain, a math fan. I wasn’t hard-core about it, and I didn’t necessarily seek it out, but when I came across math in my classes (or elsewhere, because we all know that math is everywhere), I would kick its butt. Math just makes sense to me.
Generally, my high school math teachers would teach the subject like this.
- Give some background to a formula. (For example, “Pythagoras is sometimes called the ‘Father of Numbers.'”)
- Show the class the formula.
- Give an example — or 7, depending on who needed it.
I’m very good at the “plug and chug” method — I know which numbers are this, that, or the other, and I am always able to put it all together fairly quickly. (This, of course, is with the exception of AP Calc my senior year of high school, which I was good at, but only survived because I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Rod McKinney as my calc teacher — sending love to you and yours, Mr. McKinney!)
And so, when I sat in 9th grade Geometry and learned about Pythagoras and his (wretched?) theorem, I knew exactly how and when to use the formula to solve for missing side lengths in triangles. Yay me.
I saw the pictures (that ALL looked like the one above — I didn’t even know that there was a another way to represent the proof) , and I just assumed that they made sense; looking back on it, I don’t think I understood this picture in 9th grade. Frankly, I don’t really see how this is proof of the theorem now. But, when my husband was studying for graduate school exams and needed to know how to find side length b, I rattled this formula off to him and he answered the practice question correctly. Again, yay me. But when Brice asked why the formula worked, I remember saying something like, “Uh, it just does. Ask Pythagoras and the Babylonians — they can help you out.” (Definitely not best practice…)
Then, Sunday morning, I found this .gif on StumbleUpon. Maybe I’m way late to the party, but I legitimately had not ever, ever seen this before and I had never understood the Pythagorean Theorem in this way.
(Insert collective “ohhhhhh” here.)
I would like to thank the Leonards and Sheldons out there who made this animation and gave me this epiphany. I mean, holy smokes! I am feeling like a genius right now because I finally get it. Like really get it. And now, I can tell my husband why this works — you know, for next time.
Boom. Outta here.