It’s Time to Graph! Bringing Linear Equations to Life!

Back from Christmas break and I was ready to dive back into my algebra 1 class. The last time we were really together (before midterms, winter break, and winterm) was about a month ago! AH!

Before we left, we were working on linear equations. Today I decided that I wanted to review graphing linear equations from slope-intercept, point-slope, and standard form. Instead of having my students do a worksheet or Delta Math I decided to make the day a little more interesting. For my class of 11, I used tape to create 5 coordinate planes on the ground. Everyone had a partner and there was one group of three. I had my students numbers their axises while I passed out material for the rest of class. Each group also had one whiteboard and one marker.


I handed each group a hand full of tiny paper squares. I created my squares by cutting up a laminated piece of white paper. In the mix of squares, there were also a few blue squares. My students also received a piece of string.

After the materials were passed out, I posted an equation on the board in slope-intercept form. Together, we identified the y-intercept and placed the blue square on that point. Students then used  the slope to find the other points on that line. They marked their points with the white squares. Next, students placed their string through the points they created on their graphs. Placing the string through the points helped students see if they made a mistake while graphing.

For the rest of class, I would place one equation on the board at a time and students would graph their equation. We practice graphing in slope-intercept and then moved to standard and point-slope form. Students used their white boards to change their equations from standard to slope-intercept form. When we got to point-slope form I had students identify the slope and point on their white board before graphing.

I LOVED having students work on their own coordinate plane on the floor. I could walk around and see exactly where students were struggling and could help them right away. I had students mark their intercepts with the blue squares so they could visually see the intercepts. I liked using the squares to mark the different points on the line. If students made a mistake they could easily fix it. I think my students also liked being able to physically plot all of the points and place the string down to create the line. This was a pretty fun review after winter break and a great way for me to assess my students understandings.

Using Manilla Folders to increase classroom engagement

One day I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out a way to keep my students engaged in class. I wanted students to be able to work through multiple problems and see multiple examples at their own pace. This is when I saw my box of manilla folders.

I first used the folders for an activity in Geometry where my students discovered the converse, inverse, and contrapositive.  Each pair of students worked on the activity together on the manilla folder, and at the end of class they were passed around. Students were able to see multiple examples and figure out the patterns of converse, inverse, and contrapositive without having to do multiple problems.

I next decided to use these folders in my algebra 1 class for teaching word problems. This particular class has A LOT of energy. It’s hard to get them to focus and take notes. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to have them practice word problems (perimeter, consecutive numbers, uniform motion). Students already filled in notes with notes with me and had examples of every type of word problem. Instead of giving students multiple problems to practice, I broke the class into partners and gave each group a word problem. It was each group’s job to complete the word problem and call me over when they finished. Once a group completed the problem correctly they had to copy their problem onto the manilla folder. On the front of the folder, they had to write the word problem. On the inside of the folder, they had to draw a chart (if necessary) and show their algebraic work. They also had to write their answer to the question out in complete sentences.   Students finished at different rates so this activity gave me plenty of time to walk around and help students and check for understanding.

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For homework that evening I had my students do the same thing, but this time they had were given a specific type of word problem and they had to create and solve their own problem. I wrote down the different types of problems on slips of paper and put them in the cup. Students got to reach into the cup to pick the problem they had for homework. This added a sense of excitement for getting the homework that night. I had students send me pictures of their problem before they copied it to the folder.

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In class the next day, students passed around the folders from their homework and from class the days before. The problems were on the front of the folder and the answers were on the inside. This was great because students were able to practice a variety of problems that they SOLVED and CREATED and were able to check their work instantly. This activity freed me up to be able to answer questions without the hassle of checking if every student had the right answer. This also gave my students the autonomy to create their own problems, decorate the folders, and work at their own pace. This activity took a little more time than just giving students a worksheet, but it was definitely worth it.  A worksheet would only keep this class engaged for a quarter of the time, but using folders kept them engaged the entire class.

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Exponents exponents and more exponents.

After our zombie apocalypse game about exponents I decided to check my students understanding of exponents by doing a hands on activity. I passed out a stack of cards to each students. In each stack there were 15 white cards (the questions) and 15 blue or green cards (the answers). Each student sat at a table with one other student. Each table had one stack of blue cards and one stack of green. The questions in each stack were different, so students were able to work with their partner if they had questions, but they still did their work on their own.

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I told my students to glue/tape the questions (white cards) to one side of their paper and the answer on the other, leaving room to do work between them. This caused my students to work out the problems (on paper) before matching it with the answer. It was AMAZING to see how much the students learned about exponents from the day before.

My students loved having manipulatives as they worked through the problems. This activity was much more effective than using a worksheet to check my students understanding. My students actually asked if I could organize our test in the same sort of way.  Although I’m not planning on using manipulatives I may make test matching (with more answers than questions) and create boxes for students to show their work.


I got the cards forthis activity from Don’t Panic, the Answer is 42. I changed her directions around from being a class activity where questions or answers would be up on the board to a way that gave me tangible information about each students’ understanding of exponents.