Engaging students: Graphing rational functions

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 Marlene Diaz. Her topic, from Precalculus: graphing rational functions.

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?
When graphing rational functions, we are able to see the different asymptotes a function has. A rational function has horizontal, vertical and sometimes slant asymptotes. Knowing how to find the asymptotes and knowing how to graph them can help in future classes like Calculus and calculus 2. In those classes you will learn about limits. When finding the limit of a rational function the horizontal asymptote is checked and that’s what the limit is approaching. For example, we have BOTU, which is big on top is undefined, when undefined it can either be to negative or positive infinity and depending on what x is approaching. For example,

\displaystyle \lim_{x \to \infty} \frac{x^2-3x+1}{3x+5} = \infty

in this case we see that x has a higher degree on top therefore the limit is infinity. Another example would be

\displaystyle \lim_{x \to \infty} \frac{3x^2-x+4}{x^3-2x+1} = 0

in this example we have that the degree is higher at the denominator therefore the limit is zero. In both cases we are able to evaluate both the limit and the horizontal asymptote and how they work with each other.


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

A fun activity that can be created to enforce the learning of graphing rational functions is a scavenger hunt. A student can be given a rational function to start the game, they have to find all the pieces that would help them find the graph of the function. The pieces they would have to have include the horizontal and vertical asymptotes. Once they find one piece at the back of the notecard there would be a hint of where the other piece can be. There would be other pieces mixed in with the correct one and the students would have to figure out which one they need. After they are done collecting all their cards, they would show them to the teacher and if it’s correct they get a second equation and if its incorrect they have to try again. This would most likely be played in groups of two and which ever team get the most correct will win a prize.

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.

Something I have always used as a review or to better understand a topic is Khan Academy. The reason I think this website helps me is because you are able to watch a video on how to graph a rational function, there are notes based on the video and there are different examples that can be attempted by the student. Furthermore, the link I found to help learn the graphing of rational functions breaks every step down with different videos. The first video is called graphing rational functions according to asymptotes, the next one is with y-intercepts and the last one is with zeros. After seeing all the videos there are practice problems that the students can do. At the end of the link there are more videos but, in these videos, you can ask any questions that the you might still have, and you can also see previous questions asked. The way the website is organized and detailed can be very beneficial for a student to use and it is always good to give students different explanations of the topic. The link to Khan Academy is: https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra2/x2ec2f6f830c9fb89:rational/x2ec2f6f830c9fb89:rational-graphs/v/horizontal-vertical-asymptotes


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