Engaging students: Slope-intercept form of a line

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 Michael Garcia. His topic, from Algebra I: the point-slope intercept form of a line.

green line

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

Writing linear function in slope-intercept form is an important topic in Algebra I. The slope-intercept form of a line consists of an independent and dependent variable, a slope, and a y-intercept. In previous courses, the students should have learned slope. They may not have learned specifically about the word “slope,” but they should have been introduced to the topic of rate of change. The students also should have been introduced to the topic of graphing, specifically graphing a point on a Cartesian coordinate plane. Finally, the students should have learned about independent and dependent variables.

The slope-intercept form of a line extends the concept of rate of change, graphing, and independent/dependent variables by “putting it all together.” Students now have their first glimpse into the world of graphing equations. They can now visually see the representation of the rate of change (or slope) between the different points of a line. The students can see how the slope is a constant rate that goes through our points of data.

green line

How has this topic appeared in the news?

On September 12, 2018, Apple held its annual news conference. They announced plenty of new gear and updates to their IOS, but everyone tuned in to hear about the new iPhone. The world freaked out when the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR were announced. So, how does this announcement relate to the slope-intercept form of a line? If we wanted to purchase a new iPhone and have a cell service plan with it, we can write a linear equation.

According to the Apple website, you can purchase the iPhone XS for $999, while you can purchase the iPhone XS Max for as little as $1,099. However, those price points are for the 64 GB model. If we are going to purchase an iPhone, we are going to buy the biggest and flashiest model. Since the iPhone XR is not currently taking pre-orders, we are going to purchase an iPhone XS Max with 512 GB of storage for $1,449. Since most people cannot afford to spend $1,449 on a single item, we are going to have monthly payments of $68.66.

According to an Apple sales representative I spoke on the phone with, there would not be a down payment on this iPhone model.* Also, according to my mom’s phone bill, it would cost $40 a month for one cell phone line that has unlimited talking, but 0.05 cents per text (my mom doesn’t text) . Our linear equation would be y= 0.05x +68.66 + 40, which is the same as y= 0.05x + 108.66.

This is a great way of viewing linear functions in slope-intercept form because it makes the problem more personable to the student.


*given that the customer signs up for the Apple iPhone Upgrade program


green line

How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

With new technology coming out every day, there are plenty of resources available for teachers. One tool that can be used to engage students with the slope-intercept form of a line is an application called GeoGebra. GeoGebra is “dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package.” There are online resources already created (very similar to Desmos), but I would mainly use their external app. I would use GeoGebra because of the many possibilities that are provided within the app.

The beauty of GeoGebra is student can utilize this app in their studying time as well. When you plot two points, the application automatically writes the equation associated with the line. This is a great way for the student to check their work when graphing/writing linear equation in slope-intercept form.









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.