Engaging students: Finding the domain and range of a function

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Esmeralda Sheran. Her topic, from Precalculus: finding the domain and range of a function.

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I found that Free Math Help and Khan Academy are both interactive websites that help students learn how to find domain and range of functions. If I were to have a lesson on how to find domain and range of functions I would have my students use the Free Math Help website to explore the concept of domain and range. Using the Free Math Help website a student can input any type of function that they come up with to see what the graph looks like, the steps of how to find the domain/range, and how the domain and range correspond with the graph. I could choose to have students come up with their own functions and they could experiment with expression that are not functions just so they can share some findings they came up on their own. Conversely I could make handouts with a variety of functions both continuous and discrete, expression that are not functions so that I could manage their learning in a way that they can see different graphs and their corresponding domain and ranges. Also I could give them a series of functions with different translations based off of one main parent function.

Then using Khan Academy website I could perform an active elaborate in which the students see a graph and then must give the corresponding domain and range intervals. I can walk around to each student to see what they have recorded and ask them to provide a justification for their answer or explain what properties the graph has that gives the domain and range they come up with. However I chose to structure the activities the students will be able to observe and discuss the changes in the domain and range interactively by using either Khan Academy or Free Math Help.


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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Knowing how to find domain is fundamental to most any mathematical course proceeding and not excluding pre-calculus. Once students are able to understand how to find the domain and range of a function they are able to learn deeper concepts used in calculus, discrete mathematics, and real analysis. Once in calculus students are expected to use domain and range in order to complete derivative problems specifically pertaining to finding critical points like the maximum/minimum and to describe the function as it changes from interval to interval. Understanding domain and range is also important when students must contrive and solve a definite integral from analyzing a graph or data. Then in discrete mathematics students must apply what they have learned from domain and range in the past to understand what preimage and codomain means and how they relate to the domain and how they differ from range. Apart from the regular mathematic courses, physics, differential equations and similar course also have applications of derivatives and integrals that require previous knowledge on how to find the domain and range of a function.



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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

  • I would have the students create maps such as the ones from The Emperor’s New Groove using colored pencils and paper provided in class.
  • The instructions for the activity would be:
  • Leave an inch of blank space on the bottom of the page and the left edge.
  • Then create your own chase scene
    • Using two different characters
    • Make sure your chase can pass the vertical line test.
  • Then with rulers use the centimeter side to mark your x and y axis
  • Now you must find the length and height of each of your chase scenes
    • instead of writing 7 cm long; 5 cm high use interval notation [2,9];[1,5]

This activity will help students connect domain and range to being the span of the function’s graph and the possible input and output values. It will be engaging because a kid’s movie is tied into the activity. Also the students can work independently and creatively, which is something different than what they are used to doing in the average classroom. After this activity we could move on to a more in depth discussion of the domain of discrete and discontinuous functions.



The Emperor’s New Groove – Disney Movie


Free Math Help interactive website


Khan Academy interactive website


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