You’re Never Too Young (or Old) For the Pythagorean Theorem

Should students always wait until sixth, seventh, or eighth grades for an introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem? Maybe. But maybe not. Where does it say that students need to approach every mathematical discipline at a certain age or in a certain chronological order?

At Brain Chase, we’re big fans of student-directed learning. For instance, we encourage students who choose the Khan Academy Math elective to move at their own pace and study concepts that interest and challenge them, regardless of their age or current grade level. The same applies with the weekly Bonus Challenges – we’re not afraid of introducing advanced topics, even if so doing forces participants out of their comfort zones. The triangle calculation in the Spring 2016 Week 4 Bonus Challenge is no exception.

Are you working with students who are already overly-familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem, or have we given you the dubious honor of introducing the principle to younger kids for the first time? Either way, here are a few tips that will help you bring the beloved equation out of the dusty textbooks and into the world your students occupy:

  • Watch the theory in action – The Bonus Challenge page provides several links to video clips that explain the Pythagorean Theorem in different ways. Sometimes hearing Sal Khan explain the principle is enough, but sometimes it takes a fun animated story to drive the lesson home. And it’s always funny when people use rap to teach math concepts.
  • Use your hands – Like many mathematical principles, the Pythagorean Theorem can be easily demonstrated using physical objects to great effect. Don’t have sugar cubes on hand? Grab some graph paper and a pair of scissors and follow these instructions for an easy, hands-on exercise.
  • When in doubt, involve sportsThis link from the National Science Foundation demonstrates how the Pythagorean Theorem applies on the football field. You might discuss with your students whether the same principles apply in other sports, such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Can you think of any sports where geometry doesn’t play an essential role?
  • Create story problems of your own – Okay, solving story problems isn’t always fun during tests. But creating your own story problems? That’s entirely different – and it’s a great way to find real-life applications of different principles. Review some of the examples from this link, then turn the students loose to create some examples of their own.

Did we miss anything? Drop us a line at to tell us about your Pythagorean experiences.


Good luck, adventurers!

Team Brain Chase


BONUS – Click here for some terrible Pythagorean Theorem puns. We’re sorry. We couldn’t help it.