Created by Beth McIssac, Diana Troung, and Yasmine Mahmood
Culture and math icon
Download the PDF

Curriculum – Geometry and Spatial Sense

Geometry and Spatial Sense, Geometric Properties: measure and construct angles up to 90 degrees, using a protractor.


To teach students about historical figures in math and expose students to historical ways of studying astronomy.


  •  Tape and Scissors
  • Astrolabe (printed on card stock)
  • String (30cm)
  • Hole punch
  • Weight
  • Straw
  • Large cutouts of stars prepared by the teacher
Students practicing with astrolabes


  • Give a brief history of Hypatia to set the stage for the lesson (Appendix A).


  • Students will then have the opportunity to make their own astrolabe. For detailed instructions please see: http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/AtHomeAstronomy/activity_07.html
  • Cut out the printed astrolabe (Appendix B) and punch a hole as indicated on the printed astrolabe.
  • Cut a piece of string that is about 30cm long. On one end of this string, attach the weight. Attach the other end of the string through the hole on the astrolabe. Secure with tape.
  • Tape a straw on the edge indicated on the astrolabe.


  • After all students have made their astrolabe, the teacher will instruct students how to use it by giving them the following instructions:
  • Hold the protractor so that the curved part is down and the zero degree mark is closest to you.
  • Sit on the ground and look along the flat edge of the astrolabe with your eye looking through the straw.
  • Point straw at the object that you want to measure. As you tilt the astrolabe up, the weight will move to measure the degree of your angle of observation.


  • Once students have a chance to explore the astrolabe gather for a group discussion.
  • Discuss questions such as, “What happens when you hold your astrolabe and look straight up?” “WhaT happens when you look straight ahead?” Record the angles and compare.

Possible Extensions

  • Place cutout stars on walls of the classroom. Invite students to use their astrolabe to measure the angle of observation with a partner.
  • Take turns finding different objects and measuring using the astrolabe (Appendix C).

*Download the lesson to see all appendices.
*View additional astrolabe instructions on the Center for Science Education, UC Berkeley website.