Q&A #577

Using graphing manipulatives

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From: Claudia (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Sep 22, 1998 at 20:56:10
Subject: Re: Using graphing manipulatives

If you are talking one dimension, you can have your students form a number
line and have them physically connect arms to show shading of lines for

For two dimensions, have the students start with an ordered pair on the x-
axis. Then ask each student to add two to his/her number and walk that many
steps. Ask them what they formed? Why? Who did not move, if anybody? Why? You
can continue with all sorts of different versions of this one. This one
requires a nice large area, usually outside or, it works well in the

Assign each person in the class an ordered pair, to represent the x-y plane.
(roughly speaking) Then ask things like, if your x-coordinate is less than 3
stand up. Which y coordinate is double your x?

I also teach absolute value using a human number line. Consider the abs(x-3)
(=,<,>) 5. The math verb (=,<,>) does not make any difference. Usually,
absolute value is defined as the distance of a number from zero. Where is the
"from zero" part? Inside the abs(), x-3 in this case. If I set x-3 = 0, what
will x be? This becomes my new zero. I place a student at three on the number
line. Then I walk a distance of 5 to the right and ask the student what his/
her number is? Hopefully, the reply will be 8. I then return to 3 and walk
left 5. The student should identify the number as -2. Then I ask suppose the
statement was =, what would my answer be? What if I walked < 5? Where would
that be?

 -Claudia, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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