# 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 Jason Trejo. His topic, from Algebra: finding the slope of a line. A2) How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

I have to start off by giving some credit to my 5th grade math teacher for giving me the idea on how I could create an activity involving this topic. You see, back in my 5th grade math class, we were to plot points given to us on a Cartesian plane and then connect the dots to create a picture (which turned out to be a caveman). Once we created the picture, we were to add more to it and the best drawing would win a prize. My idea is to split the class up into groups and give them an assortment of lines on separate pieces of transparent graphing sheets. They would then find the slopes and trace over the line in a predetermined color (e.g. all lines with m=2 will be blue, when m=1/3 then red, etc.). Next they stack each line with matching slopes above the other to create pictures like this:  Of course, what I have them create would be more intricate and colorful, but this is the idea for now. It is also possible to have the students fine the slope of lines at certain points to create a picture like I did back in 5th grade and then have them color their drawing. They would end up with pictures such as:  C1) How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, videogames, etc.)?

Sure there aren’t many places where finding the slope of a line will be the topic that everyone goes on and one about on TV or on the hottest blog or all over Vine (whatever that is), but take a look around and you will be able to see a slope maybe on a building or from the top of Tom Hank’s head to the end of his shadow. Think about it, with enough effort, anyone could imagine a coordinate plane “behind” anything and try to find the slop from one point to another. The example I came up with goes along with this picture I edited: *Picture not accurately to scale

This is the infamous, first double backflip ever landed in a major competition. The athlete: Travis Pastrana; the competition: the 2006 X-Games.

I would first show the video (found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLKERGvwBQ8), then show them the picture above to have them solve for each of the different slopes seen. In reality this is a parabola, but we can break up his motion to certain points in the trick (like when Travis is on the ground or when Travis is upside down for the first backflip). When the students go over parabolas at a later time, we could then come back to this picture. B2) How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

It has been many years since I was first introduced to finding the slope of the line so I’m not sure exactly when I learned it, but I do know that I at least saw what a line was in 5th grade based on the drawing project I stated earlier. At that point, all I knew was to plot points on a graph and “connect the dots”, so this builds on that by actually being able to give a formula for those lines that connected the dots. Other than that, finding slopes on a Cartesian plane can give more insight on what negative numbers are and how they relate to positive numbers. Finally, students should have already learned about speed and time, so by creating a representation how those two relate, a line can be drawn. The students would see the rate of change based on speed and time.

References:

Minimalistic Landscape: http://imgur.com/a/44DNn

Minimalistic Flowers: http://imgur.com/Kwk0tW0

Double Backflip Image: http://cdn.motocross.transworld.net/files/2010/03/tp_doubleback_final.jpg

# Engaging students: Graphs of linear equations

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 Nada Al-Ghussain. Her topic, from Algebra: graphs of linear equations. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Positive slope, negative slope, no slope, and undefined, are four lines that cross over the coordinate plane. Boring. So how can I engage my students during the topic of graphs of linear equations, when all they can think of is the four images of slope? Simple, I assign a project that brings out the Individuality and creativity of each student. Something to wake up their minds!

An individualized image-graphing project. I would give each student a large coordinate plane, where they will graph their picture using straight lines only. I would ask them to use only points at intersections, but this can change to half points if needed. Then each student will receive an Equation sheet where they will find and write 2 equations for each different type of slope. So a student will have equations for two horizontal lines, vertical lines, positive slope, and negative slope. The best part is the project can be tailored to each class weakness or strength. I can also ask them to write the slop-intercept form, point slope form, or to even compare slopes that are parallel or perpendicular. When they are done, students would have practiced graphing and writing linear equations many times using their drawn images. Some students would be able to recognize slopes easier when they recall this project and their specific work on it.

Example of a project template: Examples of student work:   How has this topic appeared in the news?

Millions of people tune in to watch the news daily. Information is poured into our ears and images through our eyes. We cannot absorb it all, so the news makes it easy for us to understand and uses graphs of linear equations. Plus, the Whoa! Factor of the slopping lines is really the attention grabber. News comes in many forms either through, TV, Internet, or newspaper. Students can learn to quickly understand the meaning of graphs with the different slopes the few seconds they are exposed to them.

On television, FOX news shows a positive slope of increasing number of job losses through a few years. (Beware for misrepresented data!) A journal article contains the cost of college increase between public and private colleges showing the negative slope of private costs decreasing. Most importantly line graphs can help muggles, half bloods, witches, and wizards to better understand the rise and decline of attractive characters through the Harry Potter series.  How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Students are introduced to simple graphs of linear equations where they should be able to name and find the equation of the slope. In a student’s future course with computers or tablets, I would use the Desmos graphing calculator online. This tool gives the students the ability to work backwards. I would ask a class to make certain lines, and they will have to come up with the equation with only their knowledge from previous class. It would really help the students understand the reason behind a negative slope and positive slope plus the difference between zero slope and undefined. After checking their previous knowledge, students can make visual representations of graphing linear inequalities and apply them to real-world problems.

References:

http://www.hoppeninjamath.com/teacherblog/?p=217

http://walkinginmathland.weebly.com/teaching-math-blog/animal-project-graphing-linear-lines-and-stating-equations

http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/10/01/a-history-of-dishonest-fox-charts/190225

http://money.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pf/college/college_tuition/

http://dailyfig.figment.com/2011/07/13/harry-potter-in-charts/

https://www.desmos.com/calculator

# 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 again comes from my former student Kelley Nguyen. Her topic, from Algebra: slope-intercept form of a line. How has this topic appeared in high culture (art, classical music, theatre, etc.)?

The slope-intercept form of a line is a linear function. Linear functions are dealt with in many ways in everyday life, some of which you probably don’t even notice.

One example where the slope-intercept form of a line appears in high culture is through music and arts. Suppose a band wants to book an auditorium for their upcoming concert. As most bands do, they meet with the manager of the location, book a date, and determine a payment. Let’s say it costs $1,500 to rent the building for 2 hours. In addition to this fee, the band earns 20% of each$30 ticket sold. Write an equation that determines whether the band made profit or lost money due to the number of tickets sold – the equation would be y = 0.2(30)x – 1500, where y is the amount gained or lost and x is the number of tickets sold that night. This can also help the band determine their goal on how many tickets to sell. If they want to make a profit of $2,000, they would have to sell x-many tickets to accomplish that. In reality, most arts performances make a profit from their shows or concerts. Not only do mathematicians and scientists use slope-intercept of a line, but with this example, it shows up in many types of arts and real-world situations. Not only does the form work for calculating cost or profit, it can relate to the number of seats in a theatre, such as x rows of 30 seats and a VIP section of 20 seats. The equation to find how many seats are available in the theatre is y = 30x + 20, where x is the number of rows. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic? A great way to engage students when learning about slope-intercept form of a line is to use Geometer’s Sketchpad. After opening a graph with an x- and y-axis, use the tools to create a line. From there, you can drag the line up or down and notice that the slope increases as you move upward and decreases as you move downward. Students can also find the equation of the line by selecting the line, clicking “Measure” in the menu bar, and selecting “Equation” in the drop-down list. This gives the students an accurate equation of the line they selected in slope-intercept form. Geometer’s Sketchpad allows students to experiment and explore directions of lines, determine whether or not it has an increasing slope, and help create a visual image for positive and negative slopes. Also, with this program, students can play a matching game with slope-intercept equations and lines. You will instruct the student to create five random lines that move in any direction. Next, they will select all of the lines, go to “Measure” in the menu bar, and click “Equation.” From there, it’ll give them the equation of each line. Then, the student will go back and select the lines once again, go to “Edit” on the menu bar, hover over “Action Buttons,” and select “Hide/Show.” Once a box comes up, they will click the “Label” tab and type Scramble Lines in the text line. Next, the lines will scramble and stop when clicked on. Once the lines are done scrambling, the student could then match the equations with their lines. This activity gives the students the chance to look at equations and determine whether the slope is increasing and decreasing and where the line hits the y-axis. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic? With this topic, I could definitely do a project that consists of slope-intercept equations, their graphs, and word problems that involve computations. For example, growing up, some students had to earn money by doing chores around the house. Parents give allowance on daily duties that their children did. The project will give the daily amount of allowance that each student earned. With that, say the student needed to reach a certain amount of money before purchasing the iPad Air. In part one of the project, the student will create an equation that reflects their daily allowing of$5 and the amount of money they have at the moment. In part two, the student will construct a graph that shows the rate of their earnings, supposing that they don’t skip a day of chores. In part three, the students will answer a series of questions, such as,

• What will you earn after a week?
• What is your total amount of money after that week?
• When will you have enough money to buy that iPad Air at \$540 after tax?

This would be a short project, but it’s definitely something that the students can do outside of class as a fun activity. It can also help them reach their goals of owning something they want and making a financial plan on how to accomplish that.

References

# Finding the equation of a line between two points

Here’s a standard problem that could be found in any Algebra I textbook.

Find the equation of the line between $(-1,-2)$ and $(4,2)$.

The first step is clear: the slope of the line is $m = \displaystyle \frac{2-(-2)}{4-(-1)} = \frac{4}{5}$

At this point, there are two reasonable approaches for finding the equation of the line.

Method #1. This is the method that was hammered into my head when I took Algebra I. We use the point-slope form of the line: $y - y_1 = m (x - x_1)$ $y - 2 = \displaystyle \frac{4}{5} (x-4)$ $y - 2 = \displaystyle \frac{4}{5}x - \frac{16}{5}$ $y = \displaystyle \frac{4}{5}x - \frac{6}{5}$

For what it’s worth, the point-slope form of the line relies on the fact that the slope between $(x,y)$ and $(x_1,y_1)$ is also equal to $m$.

Method #2. I can honestly say that I never saw this second method until I became a college professor and I saw it on my students’ homework. In fact, I was so taken aback that I almost marked the solution incorrect until I took a minute to think through the logic of my students’ solution. Let’s set up the slope-intercept form of a line: $y= \displaystyle \frac{4}{5}x + b$

Then we plug in one of the points for $x$ and $y$ to solve for $b$. $2 = \displaystyle \frac{4}{5}(4) + b$ $\displaystyle -\frac{6}{5} = b$

Therefore, the line is $y = \displaystyle \frac{4}{5}x - \frac{6}{5}$. My experience is that most college students prefer Method #2, and I can’t say that I blame them. The slope-intercept form of a line is far easier to use than the point-slope form, and it’s one less formula to memorize.

Still, I’d like to point out that there are instances in courses above Algebra I that the point-slope form is really helpful, and so the point-slope form should continue to be taught in Algebra I so that students are prepared for these applications later in life.

Topic #1. In calculus, if $f$ is differentiable, then the tangent line to the curve $y=f(x)$ at the point $(a,f(a))$ has slope $f'(a)$. Therefore, the equation of the tangent line (or the linearization) has the form $y = f(a) + f'(a) \cdot (x-a)$

This linearization is immediately obtained from the point-slope form of a line. It also can be obtained using Method #2 above, so it takes a little bit of extra work.

This linearization is used to derive Newton’s method for approximating the roots of functions, and it is a precursor to Taylor series.

Topic #2. In statistics, a common topic is finding the least-squares fit to a set of points $(x_1,y_1), (x_2,y_2), \dots, (x_n,y_n)$. The solution is called the regression line, which has the form $y - \overline{y} = r \displaystyle \frac{s_y}{s_x} (x - \overline{x})$

In this equation,

• $\overline{x}$ and $\overline{y}$ are the means of the $x-$ and $y-$values, respectively.
• $s_x$ and $s_y$ are the sample standard deviations of the $x-$ and $y-$values, respectively.
• $r$ is the correlation coefficient between the $x-$ and $y-$values.

The formula of the regression line is decidedly easier to write in point-slope form than in slope-intercept form. Also, the point-slope form makes the interpretation of the regression line clear: it must pass through the point of averages $(\overline{x}, \overline{y})$.

# 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 Theresa (Tress) Kringen. Her topic, from Algebra I: the point-slope intercept form of a line.

What interesting word problem using this topic can your students do now?

When learning about slope-intercept from of a line, word problems would help my students engage and help process the information in a real world situation. I would present an equation for the speed of a ball that is thrown in a straight line up into the air. The equation given: $v= 128-32t$. I would explain that because we’re working with time and speed, height is not a variable in the equation. With $v$ representing the speed or velocity of the ball in feet per second and t representing the time in seconds that has passed. I would include the following questions:

1. What is the slope of the given equation? Since the equation is given in slope intercept form, the students should be able to give the answer quickly if they understood the lesson. The answer is $-32$.

2. Without graphing the equation, which way would the line be headed, up and to the right or down and to the right? Because the students know that the slope is negative and given that they understood the lesson, they should be able to answer that the line is decreasing and is headed down and to the right.

http://www.purplemath.com/modules/slopyint.htm

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

Students can use this topic for many math or science courses. When dealing with a linear equation, slope-intercept form of a line can help the student understand what the graph looks like without actually graphing it. This is useful when needing to find the $y$ intercept (when $x$ is equal to zero) and what the slope of the line is. This is also useful to know for understanding what slope is. When students understand that a slope of a particularly large number (a large whole number such as $1,000$ or an improper fraction that equates to a large number such as $30,999/2$) is rising quickly as opposed to a slope of a smaller number  (a smaller whole number such as two or a fraction that represents a very small portion of one such as $1/30,000$) which is not rising quickly. It is helpful for the students to understand that a very large slope will look almost vertical and a small slope will look almost horizontal, with both depending on the degree of largeness or smallness. How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

When working with slope-intercept form, a student can actively be engaged through technology by attempting to make connections of how a graph looks on the graphing calculator and what the equation looks like in slope-intercept form. When allowing the students to make connections between them in small groups, they will have discovered the information form themselves. This will allow the students to more effectively program the information into their memories. To set this up, I would give each group a graphing calculator and a list of equations in slope-intercept form. On the paper with the list, I would have the students fill out information pertaining to the graph that they see. This information would include the slope and the y-intercept. I would split up the students into their cooperative learning groups two and ask them to draw a conclusion between where the line ends up compared to what the equation looks like. Once the students have typed their equation into the graphing calculator the students should fill out the paper provided. Once they have finished, I would ask them to see if they see any patterns between the equations and their answers.