Engaging students: Finding points on the coordinate plane

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 Lucy Grimmett. Her topic, from Pre-Algebra: finding points on the coordinate plane.

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

As a hands-on learner, I love activities that require me to be up and moving. I have always heard about the human coordinate plane. The teacher creates a life size coordinate plane on the floor of their classroom. The teacher would label the x and y axis and place contact paper on the floor marking coordinate points. Students would walk into class and write their name on a point. Later they would return to their point and the activity begins. The teacher or another student would stand at the origin and ask how she would get to “insert name” point. Students would discover the coordinates of their spot or point.  They would then return to their seats, after the activity, and complete a journal entry in their notebook. The teacher would then have notes and discussion with the class. During note taking time I would tell student about the elevator idea. The idea is that you must walk to the elevator before you can go up or down. This is a great reminder for students to remember what order the plot the numbers in, and what direction.

See this link for more detailed instructions: http://www.cpalms.org/Public/PreviewResourceLesson/Preview/49870



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

Plotting points and finding points on a coordinate plane is a very necessary topic for many courses. If you cannot find points adequately on a coordinate plane then students will not be able to graph equations of lines through plugging in. They will not be able to find slope of a line. They will not be able to graph vectors in both mathematics and physics. There are endless needs for plotting points on a graph. When you move into polar coordinates in mathematics, it is necessary to know how to plot points as well. Polar coordinates then lead into trigonometry, which leads into graphing equations of trig functions, which leads into calculus, which also requires graphing equations and using the graph to visualize where the tangent line would be on the coordinate plane. Being familiar with coordinate points and how to find them and plot them is going to be a lesson student’s take with them forever. Even if they are an art major, they will still used coordinates.




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How has this topic appeared in the news?

The idea of plotting points is used in graphs, charts, diagrams and many other visual aids in the news. The news is constantly using these visual aids to make data look more dramatic. Another idea is during the weather segment, meteorologist have to mark the temperatures on the city. Now it is very computerized, but back in the day, they had to use latitude and longitude to find the city, which is very similar to plotting points on a coordinate plane. Another idea is stock news. This news is typically on websites rather then broadcasted segments, however, stocks are a great idea of graphing points. You merely plot the day or time and the rate at which the stock was increasing or decreasing. The points are then connected with lines to show how it the stock goes up and down. This is a good idea when students start to learn about slope of lines as well.



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