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 Tiger Hersh. His topic, from Pre-Algebra: finding points on the coordinate plane.

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A2 : How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

To find a point on a 2-D coordinate plane we would need to have an x-axis and y-axis. Many things in the real world could act as a coordinate plane and that could also be used to create an activity or project. One of those things could be where the students could use a Nerf gun and fire it at a wall with a coordinate plane. This activity would not only be engaging for students but also help them understand how to plot the points on a coordinate plane, but also show students how to find the point on the coordinate plane.

Students will group up and take turns firing darts at a wall that would have a coordinate plane on it. Each group will have different color darts to indicate where each group has plotted their point. Each student in each group will fire two darts at the coordinate plane; After each student has finished plotting their points they will approximate the point and record it down on their worksheet.

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Curr1 : How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Plotting points on a 2-D coordinate plane is used in almost every future course in mathematics. You can observe the usage of 2-D coordinate planes in Geometry, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Pre-Cal, and so on.
In Geometry you can plot the points of a triangle on the coordinate plane to then find the distance between them with the distance formula or you could find the midpoint between each point using the midpoint formula. These are only some examples that plot points on the 2-D coordinate plane.

In Algebra 1/2 you can see that you can find the slope between two points using the slope equation. You can also use this concept to plot points for equations that involve the slope-intercept form, polynomials, the unit circle, shapes, etc. The points that are plotted could also show what is happening over a period of time and also give us an idea what the equation is trying to tell us.

In Pre-cal you plot points on a coordinate plane in the equation x^2+y^2=1 to form the unit circle and also plot points when you have to rotate or transform a shape or equation.


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Cul1 : How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

The game Starcraft 2 is a real-time strategy (RTS) game where you have to build an economy to fuel an army and beat the opponent by destroying their infrastructure, economy, or army. Interestingly when you build your building you notice that you are building on a 2-D coordinate plane.

The game itself is in its own 2-D coordinate plane where you have to plan where to move at certain points and also place your buildings at certain points to either block off a ramp or create a concave for your units so that they are able to deal more damage towards the opponent. There are also times in the game where you have to keep in mind about key parts in the map where your opponent is, where your next bases are, where proxies are, and where to set up counter attacks on your opponent.


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