Category Archives: color coding

Corresponding Angles in Stain Glass


Found this (above) cool example of corresponding angles (see photo below for explanation). This window photo could be a nice introduction to this type of problem by printing it out on paper and having students match angles as the teacher shows the photo on the Smart Board or screen.


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Making Slope Less Complicated


Slope is the rate of change associated with a line. This is a challenging topic especially when presented in the context of a real life application like the one shown in the photo. The graphed function has different sections each with a respective slope.

One aspect of slope problems that is challenging is the different contexts of the numbers:

  • The yellow numbers represent time
  • The orange numbers represent altitude
  • The pink numbers represent the slopes of the lines (the one on the far right is missing a negative)

Before having students find or compute slope I present the problem as shown in the photo above and discuss the meaning of the different numbers. What I find is that students get the different numbers confused and teachers often overlook this challenge. This approach is part of a task analysis approach in which the math topic is broken into smaller, manageable parts for the student to consume. Once the different types of numbers are established for the students we can focus on actually computing and interpreting the slope.

This instructional strategy is useful for all grade levels and all math topics.


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Introduction to Slope

which-jobSlope is one of the the most important topics in algebra and is often understood by students at a superficial level. I suggest introducing slope first by drawing upon prior knowledge and making the concept relevant (see photo above).  This includes presenting the topic using multiple representations: the original real life situation, rates (see photo above) and tables, visuals,  and hands on cutouts (see photos below).

10-dollars-per-hour-graphA key aspect of slope is that it represents a relationship between 2 variables. Color coding (red for hours, green for pay) can be used to highlight the 2 variables and how they interact –  see photo above and below.5-dollars-per-hour-graph

The photo below can be used either in initial instruction, especially for co-taught classes, or as an intervention for students who needs a more concrete representation of a rate (CRA). The clocks (representing hours) and bills can be left in the table for or cut out.cut-outs-hours-bills

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Analyzing a Graph


Students can hit a road block at the steps that appear to be very simple. For example, in the problem below the students are prompted to find the highest point on the graph. Many think the graph refers to the entire coordinate plane and they pick 5 as the high point. It is the highest point on the y-axis but not the graph. I introduce the problem by highlighting the actual graph in pink and explain that this highlighted line is what is meant by the graph.

Analyze Graph Using Color Coordinate Plane Only - Edited.jpg

The use of color also helps students distinguish between the x and y axes and what the variables x and y represent in the context of the problem (# minutes and # kilometers in this problem) – see photo above. This problem also involves plugging in a # for x (blue) IN the function (red). In the photo below you see how I use color to help emphasize this.


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Color Coding for Calculus


This is an example of color coding (highlighting) to help make a calculus problem accessible. You don’t have to know calculus to see that the yellow sections (left and right of the 0) are going up while the green section is going down. Color coding breaks a whole into parts that are easier to see and understand – works in preschool all through calculus!

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