Engaging students: Solving systems of linear inequalities

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 Austin Carter. His topic, from Algebra: solving linear systems of inequalities.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

System of equations can be solved in several ways. Changing from linear systems to systems of inequalities only means there is a range of viable answers, but the processes for solving them remain the same; graphing, elimination, substitution, or matrices. Learning how to deal with inequalities will also give us access to more interesting real world problems, because we don’t always need an exact value; sometimes we need at least this much or no more than a certain amount. For example:

  • In order to get a bonus this month, Leon must sell at least 120 newspaper subscriptions. He sold 85 subscriptions in the first three weeks of the month. How many subscriptions must Leon sell in the last week of the month?
  • Virenas Scout troop is trying to raise at least $650 this spring. How many boxes of cookies must they sell at $4.50 per box in order to reach their goal?
  • The width of a rectangle is 20 inches. What must the length be if the perimeter is at least 180 inches?


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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Systems of inequalities are most easily understood with visual aid. Different colors for each equation, dotted line vs. solid line, and shading are all major components of inequalities and being able to see how each shaded region overlaps is invaluable to understanding the answer. In my experience, the easiest tool to visualize all these components is the desmos online calculator. Desmos is very user friendly and will accept equations in any form. Also, it assigns different colors to each equation entered, allows students to zoom in and out to see detail on any scale, and allows students to “click and drag” and equation line to see the (x,y) components at that location. Desmos could be used to have students create their own graphs and explain the limiting factors of their picture.


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Sensors are how our electronics interact with the real world. Just think about a car, and how many things are being measured and monitored constantly. Every one of those sensors is responsible for measuring something specific and making sure that measurement stays within an acceptable range. What happens if your car gets too hot? What happens if you don’t buckle your seatbelt? As autonomous vehicles come online, what happens if that vehicle gets too close to another object? All of these things are measured by sensors, and those measurements are constantly being run through software to make sure those measurements stay within an acceptable range. But how does the software determine what an acceptable range is? The software uses system of inequalities to make sure every single measurement stays within an acceptable range, and if it doesn’t it alerts the driver. The world as we know it would come crumbling down without the sensors we rely on daily, but the information those sensors collect would be useless if we didn’t have systems of inequalities to make the data meaningful.


Solve Real-World Problems Using Inequalities. (2015, July 7). Retrieved September 14, 2018, from https://students.ga.desire2learn.com/d2l/lor/viewer/viewFile.d2lfile/1798/12938/Algebra_ReasoningwithEquationsandInequalities7.html

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