Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Graphing Stories - Section 3: Graphing Stories


I realized after teaching this lesson for the first time that many of students are unfamiliar with meters as a unit of measurement.  So after giving everyone a few minutes to set up their y-axes for the first example, I ask, "What are we counting by on the y-axis?"

First, students say we're counting by fives.  Then, someone shouts out that the axis is labeled in meters.  I say, "How big is a meter?  Everyone put your hands a meter apart."  Students start to hold up their hands, some close together, some further apart: Yup, I think to myself, this is worth it!  I hold up my hands a few inches apart, "Is this a meter?" I ask.  It's a good moment.  Kids want to know stuff like this.  They know this is the kind of thing they should know, and they appreciate it.

Finally, I say, "A meter is 100 centimeters," and after a pause to let everyone think about that, "It's a little more than three feet.  So when the greatest number on the y-axis is 50 meters, how high are we talking about?"  

This helps students think about what they're looking at, and now everyone has that informal unit conversion in mind as they watch the video and sketch their graphs.  What I couldn't predict is how well this would catch in some of my classes.  The idea of a meter was something that a lot of students really wanted to grasp: "So how much is 5 meters?" they'd ask.

In one particular class, students took another step beyond that, really taking the opportunity to get a sense of space.  "So what does 15 feet look like?" one student asked, continuing, "What would that look like in this room?"  I responded by saying that each floor tile is a one-foot square, so he could count tiles to see what 15 feet looks like.  Soon, several students were up, counting distances across the floor to get a better feel for what they were watching.  Note that this video is about height, so then students had to be able to compare horizontal distance in our room to their perception of vertical distance in the video.  

I didn't plan for any of that, but what a joy to have kids up and around the room, asking questions that they really wanted answered, and making better sense of the problem!

  An Unplanned Moment: How Big is a Meter?
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: An Unplanned Moment: How Big is a Meter?
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Graphing Stories

Unit 8: Linear and Exponential Functions
Lesson 5 of 19

Objective: SWBAT sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a situation that takes place over time, and they'll be able to interpret some key features of a graph.

Big Idea: Graphs can tell stories, and stories can be graphed. Today we'll sketch a few such graphs.

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u4 l5 height over time
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