Sunday, January 3, 2016

Graphing Linear Functions

Each year I hope that my Algebra 1 students will come to me already knowing how to graph lines.  I KNOW they get taught this in middle school, but for some reason, they just cannot hang on to this.  Worse than coming to me in Algebra 1 and not being able to graph a line, is when I see them in Algebra 2, and they are still fumbling with it!

Well, I refuse.  I have decided that students have to be able to do THREE things to be able to say they passed my Algebra 1 class:

1.  They have to be able to solve "ugly" problems and that includes clearing fractions.

2.  They have to be able to graph a line.  In any and all forms.  Without help.  On demand.  And that includes y = 4 and x = -2.

3.  They have to be able to multiply polynomials using the box method.

To this end, I have been creating and searching for lovely "ugly" problems.  If you have some, please send it to me at  and I will add it to the collection and post it on Twitter!

I have also been doing Number Talks and encouraging students to multiply large numbers using the area model (aka "box method").  This is in preparation for multiplying polynomials, and hopefully factoring them as well!

As for linear functions, I have been doing lots with Fawn's Visual Patterns and other linear activities like Stacking Cups, but sometimes I just have to make them graph the equations.  To make it a little more palatable I am making a game.

Next week, when my Algebra kiddos come back to me, they will find 24 equation cards, a couple of dice, their individual white boards, some colored cubes, and a game board that looks like this:

Game play is simple:

  • No more than 4 in a group.
  • 1st player:  Turn over one of the cards.
  • Graph the given equation.
  • Show the graphed equation to the other members of the group.  If no one challenges you, then you are good to go. Roll the dice and go that many spaces.
  • If someone challenges you, they have to explain what they think you did incorrectly, and re-graph the equation.
  • Whoever gets the equation graphed correctly gets to roll the dice and go that many spaces.
  • In the event no one knows how to graph the line, or the group cannot agree on how to graph the line, they may go (as a group: everyone needs to see what it looks like) to one of the 4 computers in the room and use Desmos.  In this case, no one gets to roll, but it could be a good strategy since there may be multiple cards of that type in the deck.
  • Move to the next player.
Game is over when all cards have been used OR someone makes it to the top.  If no one makes it to the top, the person furthest along wins.

I don't want this to take the whole period, and I will give them graphing lines homework to see if this helped at all.  Fingers crossed!

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