4 Poetic Formulas for Geometry Class

Math educators can consider how similar the logic of poetry can support the logic of math. Each branch of mathematics has its own specific language, and poetry is the arrangement of language or words. Helping students understanding the academic language of geometry is critical to comprehension.

Researcher and education expert and author Robert Marzano offers a series of comprehension strategies to help students with the logical ideas described by Einstein. One specific strategy requires students to "provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term." This priority suggestion on how students explain focuses on activities that ask students to tell a story that integrates the term; students can choose to tell a story through poetry.

Why Poetry for Geometry Vocabulary

Poetry helps students reimagine vocabulary in different logical contexts. So much vocabulary in the content area of geometry is interdisciplinary, and students must understand the multiple meanings of terms. Take for example the differences in the meanings of the following term BASE:

Base: (n)

(architecture/geometry) bottom support of anything; that on which a thing stands or rests; the principal element or ingredient of anything, considered as its fundamental part:

  1. (in baseball) any of the four corners of the diamond;
  2. (math) the number that serves as a starting point for a logarithmic or another numerical system.

Now consider how Ashlee Pitock used the word "base" in verse that won 1st-place in the Yuba College Math/poetry (2015) titled

"The Analysis of You and Me":
"I should've seen the base rate fallacy
the mean squared error of your mentality
When the outlier of my affection was unknown to you."

Her use of the word base can produce vivid mental images that forge remembering connections to that particular content area. Research shows that using poetry to highlight the different meanings of words is an effective instructional strategy to use in EFL/ESL and ELL classrooms 

Some examples of words Marzano targets as critical for the understanding of geometry:

  • Angle
  • Arc
  • Circle
  • Line
  • Postulate
  • Proof
  • Theorem
  • Vector

Poetry as Math Practice Standard 7

The Mathematical Practice Standard #7 states that "mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure." 

Poetry is mathematical. For example, the stanzas are created numerically when a poem is organized in stanzas:

  • couplet (2 lines)
  • tercet (3 lines)
  • quatrain (4 lines)
  • cinquain (5 lines)
  • sestet (6 lines) (sometimes it's called a sextain)
  • septet (7 lines)
  • octave (8 lines) 

Similarly, the rhythm or meter of a poem is organized numerically in rhythmic patterns called "feet" (or syllable stresses on words):

  • one foot=monometer
  • two feet=dimeter
  • three feet=trimeter
  • four feet=tetrameter
  • five feet=pentameter
  • six feet=hexameter 

Other poems use different kinds of mathematical patterns, such as the two (2) listed below, the cinquain diamante and the acrostic.

Examples of Geometry Vocabulary and Concepts in Student Poetry

First, writing poetry allows students to associate their emotions/feelings with vocabulary. There can be angst, determination, or humor, as in the following (uncredited author) student's poem on the Hello Poetry website:

love is only real
when feeling and beingarecongruentcomplimentaryand obliquewith
trust, respect and understanding

Second, poems are short which allows teachers to connect to content topics in memorable ways. The poem "Speaking of Geometry" on the Hello Poetry website, for instance, is a clever way a student shows she can distinguish between the multiple meanings (homograph) of the word angle. She could mean: "the space within two lines or three or more planes diverging from a common point, or within two planes diverging from a common line" OR could mean "a point-of-view or standpoint."

Speaking of Geometry.
You are the triangle in my Pythagorean Theorem.
Circles may be never-ending,
but I would rather be quite clear on our angles and
all that other nonsense.
I'd rather be equivalent or at the very least,

Third, poetry helps students explore how concepts in a content area can be applied to their own lives into their lives, communities, and the world. It is this stepping beyond the math facts-making connections, analyzing information, and creating new understandings-that enables students to “get into” a subject. The poem "Geometry" begins connecting one student's view of the world using the language of geometry.

i wonder why people think parallel lines are pathetic
that they have never met
that they will never see each other
and that, they will never know how it feels like to be together.
isn't it better? that way?...

When and How to Write Geometry Math Poetry

Improving student comprehension in the vocabulary of geometry is important, but finding the time for this kind of is always challenging.

Furthermore, all students may not need the same level of support as the vocabulary. Therefore, one way to use poetry to support vocabulary work is by offering work during long-term "math centers." Centers are areas in the classroom where students refine a skill or extend a concept. In this form of delivery, one set of materials is placed in an area of the classroom as a differentiated strategy to have ongoing student engagement: for review or practice or enrichment.
Poetry "math centers" using formula poems are ideal because they can be organized with explicit instructions so that students can work independently. Additionally, these centers allow students to have the opportunity to engage with others and to "discuss" mathematics. There is also the opportunity to share their work visually.

For math teachers who may have concerns about having to teach poetic elements, there are multiple formula poems, including three listed below, that require no instruction on the literary elements. Each formula poem offers a different way to have students increase their understanding of the academic vocabulary used in geometry.

Math teachers should also know that students can always have the option to tell a story, as Marzano suggests, a more free-form expression of terms. Math teachers should note that a poem told as a narrative does not have to rhyme.

Math educators should also note that using formulas for poetry in geometry class can be similar to the processes for writing math formulas. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge may have been channeling his "math muse" when he wrote in his definition:

"Poetry: the best words in the best order."
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Cinquain Poetry Pattern

Poetry that follows a formula is easy to use in the geometry content area. lambada/GETTY Images

A cinquain consists of five unrhymed lines. There are different forms of cinquain based on the number of syllables or words in each.

Each line has a set number of words see below:

Line 1: 1 word
Line 2: 2 words
Line 3: 3 words
Line 4: 4 words
Line 5: 1 word

Example: Student's definition of the word congruent

Two things
Exactly the same
That helps me geometrically
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Diamante Poetry Patterns

Students can use patterns to create math poems and meet Mathematical Practice Standard #7. mustafahacalaki/GETTY Images

The Structure of a Diamante Poem

A diamante poem is made up of seven lines using a set structure; the number of words in each is the structure:

Line 1: Beginning subject
Line 2: Two describing words about line 1
Line 3: Three doing words about line 1
Line 4: A short phrase about line 1, a short phrase about line 7
Line 5: Three doing words about line 7
Line 6: Two describing words about line 7
Line 7: End subject

Example of a student's definition of angles:

complementary, supplementary
measured in degrees.
All angles named with letters for lines a or b; 
a middle letter
representing the
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Shape or Concrete Poetry

Concrete or shape poetry allows students to write about the meaning of geometry using the forms of geometry. GETTY Images

A shape Poem or concrete poetry is a type of poetry that not only describes an object but is also shaped the same as the object the poem is describing. This combination of content and form helps to create one powerful effect in the field of poetry.

In the following example, the concrete poem Geometry of Love by Dave Will, the opening stanza starts with three lines about two lines:

Two lines intersect
an inherently
unstable situation.

        Visually, the poem "thins" out until the final stanza:

Very occasionally
two lines may meet
end to end
and curve
to form
a circle
which is
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Acrostic Poetry

Acrostic poems are great ways to review vocabulary words. Westend61/GETTY Images

An acrostic poem uses the letters in a word to begin each line of the poem. All lines of the poem relate to or describe the main topic word. 

In this geometry acrostic, the word median is the t title of the poem. After the letters of the title are written vertically, each line of the poem begins with the corresponding letter of the title. A word, phrase or sentence can be written on the line. The poem must refer to the word, not just a bunch of words that fit the letters.
Example:  Medians 

  • Medians
  • Evenly
  • Divide a segment
  • Into
  • A pair of
  • New and congruent
  • Segments
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Your Citation
Bennett, Colette. "4 Poetic Formulas for Geometry Class." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/improve-geometry-content-vocabulary-poetry-4025463. Bennett, Colette. (2023, April 5). 4 Poetic Formulas for Geometry Class. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/improve-geometry-content-vocabulary-poetry-4025463 Bennett, Colette. "4 Poetic Formulas for Geometry Class." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/improve-geometry-content-vocabulary-poetry-4025463 (accessed June 8, 2023).