# Engaging students: Graphs of linear equations

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 again comes from my former student Saundra Francis. Her topic, from Algebra: graphs of linear equations.

B1. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics and science?

Learning how to graph linear equations is the basis for many topics that students will learn later in Algebra and future mathematics and science courses. Students will now be able to solve word problems using graphs to model the situation describe in the problem. Being able to graph linear equations will help students graph non-linear equations since they will be able to apply the steps they learn on how to graph to different types of equations, Students will also be able to graph inequalities to find solutions for an equation since graphing equations is the first step in graphing inequalities. Another application of graphing linear equations is when students need to make graphs when completing science labs, many times students need to graph their data collected and find an equation that represents the data.

C3. How has this topic appeared in the news?

Graphs of linear equations are displayed in the markets sections on The New York Times. Segments of different linear equations can be put together match the graphs that display the rise and fall of different markets and stocks. Time is displayed on the x-axis while the y-axis list the price of the stock. The slope of the line is the percent change in the price of the stock and can be positive or negative depending if the price rose or fell. The y-intercept would be the price that the stock or market was at before the percent change. This will engage students because it is an example of how graphs of linear equations is displayed in the real world and they get a chance to see how they can use this concept in the future. This could also be made into an activity where students discover the linear equations that are combined to make a certain market or stock graph.

D1. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or development of this topic?

René Descartes was born in 1596 and was a French scientist, philosopher, and mathematician. He is thought to be the father of modern philosophy. Descartes started his education at age nine and by the time he was twenty-two he had earned a degree in law. Then Descartes tried to understand the natural world using mathematics and logic, which is when he discovered how to visually represent algebraic equations. Descartes was the first to use a coordinate system to display algebraic equations. In 1637 Descartes published La Géométrie, which was where he first showed how to graph equations. He linked geometry and algebra in order to represent equations visually. While thinking about the nature of knowledge and existence Descartes stated, “I think; therefore I am”, which is one of his most famous thoughts. Students will gain interest in graphing equations when they are told about Descartes since he was an interesting person and he discovered things not only in the field of mathematics but philosophy too.

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