Unpacking Graphs Using a Rollercoaster

I introduce key characteristics with parabolas and use the analogy of a rollercoaster. Riding once (and never a again) the Superman rollercoaster at Six Flags New England got me thinking about this. At one point the roller coaster hits ground level (a zero) and then goes underground (negative y values).


Here is a handout I use for the introduction. Here are images showing how I use the handouts. The table helps students visualize the x-values and y-values when looking at the graph. The rollercoaster provides extra context for the various characteristics, e.g., increasing means the rollercoaster is going up. Note the scaffolding by adding context clues for each characteristics.

I start with max height of the rollercoaster. I highlight the actual graph first, then the y-values in the table. Then point out we are looking for the x-values for what we highlighted.

The issue of highlighting the vertex for the increasing and decreasing values would be addressed when writing the interval. The idea of the rollercoaster at the tip top provides context to develop the concept.

Similarly, I start with the zeroes. Again, highlight the graph, then the y-values, then the x-values.

The issue of highlighting the zeroes for the positive and negative values would be addressed when writing the interval. The idea of the rollercoaster at the ground level provides context to develop the concept.

I has been effective to have students highlight the parts of the respective axis when discussing the domain and range (not discussed yet). A common challenge is understanding that the x-values continue to the right or left when it appears they simply go down. To address this, I use a very wide parabola to show more lateral movement.


Here is a Jamboard. You have a make a copy to access it (see photo at bottom). Here is a FB Reel and a YouTube video showing how it works.

Graphing a Quadratic Function in Vertex Form – Scaffolded Handout

Here is a scaffolded handout. The first problem has additional scaffolding to convert from addition to subtraction and vise versa. The first problem does not require the transformation of the operations but the second one does.

Introduction to 2 Variable Inequalities

Previously, I shared how I use a Google Jamboard to introduce 1 variable linear equalities with a focus on conceptual understanding. I use the same approach for the 2 variable version (example problem below).

A conceptual gap that typically arises is the students do not understand what the shading represents. This is what I am addressing from the start using a Jamboard. First, the focus is on understanding the inequality and identifying a single point that works (below).

The next step is for students to determine more points that are solutions for the inequality, with no equal to part. (below).

The equal to part is addressed separately (below).

The equal to and the greater parts previously addressed are combined together.

The inequality is will be expanded to include an operation (+ 2) with a focus on the equal to part first.

The greater than with no equal to is addressed.

Then the equal to and greater than are addressed sequential. The equal to results in dots in a straight line and in lieu of plotting all the points, a line is drawn (building on the intro to 1 variable inequalities). This is followed by the greater than part and shading in lieu of plotting all of the dots above. THIS is where they gain an understanding of what the aforementioned shading is.

Finally, the dashed line is addressed by showing, as was done with the 1 variable inequalities, that there is a cutoff point that is not part of the solution set so in lieu of plotting a bunch of open circles, a dashed line is drawn.

Graphing Linear Functions

Screenshot 2017-12-22 at 11.52.09 AM

Graphing linear functions and the underlying concept are challenging for many students. The video below shows a scaffolded approach to teaching how to graph. This approach also addresses the concept of the graph as a visual representation of all possible solutions (see photo above). Students often do not realize that the line is actually comprised of an infinite set of points which represent all the solutions. Here is a link to the document used in the video.