Engaging students: Finding the slope 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 again comes from my former student Bri Del Pozzo. Her topic, from Algebra: finding the slope of a line. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic? As a teacher I would likely introduce a very popular and well-received project to my students, the project where students draw an angular image on a graph and then calculate the slope of 20 lines from their image. I love this project because it allows students to connect mathematics to art and encourages them to express themselves creatively. As a precursor to the project, I would introduce students to the types of slopes and their characteristics using a tool that I learned in my Algebra Class, Mr. Slope Guy (pictured below).In the image the positive slope is indicated by the left eyebrow and above the plus-sign eye, the negative slope is the right eyebrow by the negative sign eye, the nose represents the undefined slope and is denoted by a vertical line and a “u” for undefined, and the mouth represents the zero-slope shown by a horizontal line and two zeros. The students could use this resource while completing their projects to serve as a reminder of the types of slopes. The main focus of the project, however, would focus on the process of how to find slope given two points on a line. (This project is based on an example from: https://kidcourses.com/slope/ #5) How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses? In the grade 7 TEKS for mathematics, students are expected to “represent linear relationships using verbal descriptions, tables, graphs, and equations that simplify to the form .” This creates a foundation for finding the slope of a line by introducing students to multiple representations of what slope looks like. When discussing how to find the slope of a line, I think that the tabular representation is a great tool for students to visualize the meaning behind slope. In seventh grade math, students were able to conceptualize slope without using the formula. When finding slope in early algebra, I would encourage students to look at graphs from a new lens, noticing features such as the sign of the line, the steepness of the line, the difference in x’s and y’s at different points on the line, and the slope itself. When looking at a table, I would ask students to calculate the difference in x’s and y’s as they go down the rows of the table and have them compare those numbers to those that they saw in the graph. How has this topic appeared in the news? As many of us know, over the past 18 months or so, the number of Covid-19 Cases in the United States has been on the rise. For a long time, the total number of cases in the United States was growing exponentially and very quickly. As more research has been done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have learned that there is a way to flatten the curve and reduce the number of daily cases. This initiative to flatten the curve has resulted in the growth of cases to resemble liner growth rather than exponential growth. As mathematicians, we can calculate the slope of the line that represents the (linear) growth of Covid-19 cases per day. We can make comparisons between growth rates in different states and use that data to make predictions about effectiveness of Covid-19 prevention procedures.