History and Geometry: The Odd Couple

I began a many part series last week defining Integrated Social Studies. In no uncertain terms every social studies subject needs to be taught together in order to have the biggest learning impact but that doesn’t mean you can’t integrate other subjects.

Geometry might not seem to be a natural fit for social studies, specifically history but it can work. Geometry is everywhere and history can illustrate that even if in the simplest terms.

How to Integrate History and Geometry: A Beginners Guide

Giza Pyramids

Above is a picture of the Great Pyramids at Giza. The pyramids are square pyramids because the base of the pyramid is a square. Each corner of the base connects to the top or the apex creating four triangles.

The triangles are right angle triangles.

For those who wanted to spend time crunching numbers a class could find the volume of the pyramids (if they were solid) or the surface area.

I do not have strong math skills but these are exercises I could easily walk a class through. Sure, my students might groan when I tell them we are going to work through some problems in geometry but it does help make both subjects real and legitimate.

When I was in school, math teachers could never tell me what math would be used for. Every math teacher said, “if you are going to be in science you have to know math.” Honestly? That was it? I knew I was never going to be in a science field so I wrote off math.

I asked students once what they thought one did with a degree in mathematics. They still had no idea.

We hear often about the need for more STEM majors. But students are not being exposed to math in real life.

What if Monica really likes geometry? What if she likes it so much she wants to major in it in college? But Monica doesn’t know what she wants to do with her geometry skills. She envisions sitting at a desk doing word problems.

This is not a scenario I created to prove a point. It is a real problem in schools today.

Sure, doing math problems while talking about something that was built thousands of years ago won’t necessarily help her figure it out but she is being exposed to geometry in real life. Here is something people did with geometry. Throughout an entire year of world history that integrates geometry several times Monica has an idea of how geometry is important in real life and she begins to imagine ways she can use her degree that doesn’t require her to sit and solve math problems all day.

Here are other examples of geometry in history.

The Great Pyramids at Giza can become quite advanced lessons for teachers who feel comfortable taking the time. The placement of each chamber and antechamber inside the pyramids are geometry at work. The outside each pyramid was encased in white limestone for a smooth exterior with the very top gilded in gold. The idea was to catch the morning light. Each pyramid had to be at precise angles in order for that effect to work. The pyramids create an invisible line pointing North.

Giza Pyramids

The Leaning Tower of Pisa might be saved from falling over for now but one could calculate the angle that it leans. The weight and counter weight could also be calculated. Save the Tower! Use geometry!

Leaning Tower

Versailles and the Gardens: The size of Versailles is a lesson in geometry. The size of each room is geometry. The area of the entire palace is geometry. The crushed stone pathways to each square or round garden are examples of geometry. The entire shape and scale of the gardens at Versailles are examples.


Yes, planning to integrate geometry would require a little extra planning. Perhaps you’d have to walk down to the math hall and have a meeting with the geometry teacher. Co-teach a lesson. Switch classes. They teach the geometry and you teach the history. Collaborate on graphics and pictures for a presentation. The lessons can be fun and exciting. Not every history teacher has the guts to integrate math into the subject. Be that teacher.

Integrate geometry.


The three pictures, The Great Pyramids at Giza, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Versailles all came from Wikipedia.
The clip are featured picture is from http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/technology-center-cottage-51927038


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