I’m not sure why, but over the years I have had numerous Algebra students (grades 8, 9 & 10) who came to class unable to identify points on a plane, or even identify the x and y-axis. This deficit in their math knowledge meant they had no idea how to identify ordered pairs and made slope nearly impossible for them to understand. The first time I had students who had a hard time remembering which axis was x and which was y, I printed out worksheets that had 20+ problems and had the students identify various ordered pairs. It took FOREVER for students to complete those worksheets, and at the end of the day I didn’t notice a difference in comprehension.
The following year when slope came up I devised a better plan for helping those who had problems. The day before we began slope became “Identifying Ordered Pairs Day” (IOPD). Having the review day made a HUGE difference in how quickly my students’ grasped slope so I thought I’d take a few minutes to write up what we did on “identifying ordered pairs day” in case anyone out there needs ideas.
Side note: Anyone else have middle/high school students struggling with ordered pairs???
When I was coming up with ideas on what to do on IOPD I spent a lot of time trying to think of things that would really engage students. In the end I decided that I needed students to be up out of their seats, so on “IOPD” I move ALL of the desks in the classroom to the sides, leaving a ton of space in the middle. In the space, I create a large coordinate plane. As large as it can possibly be! My favorite thing to use is masking tape! When it’s nice outside, sidewalk chalk does the trick too!
When students walk in we begin our identifying ordered pairs review day by lining up. First, all students’ line up on the x-axis. Then the y. Then the x, etc. Once they’ve done it a few times, they seem to remember which is which. Next, I have students take turns going to various x and y intercepts. I hold up a sign that will say something like (2,0) or (0,-4), and students take turns going to that specific coordinate. Once we get past that, I break students up into 4 groups (one group per quadrant) and hand out a set of 8-10 coordinates for each group. I then set a time for 5minutes and each group takes turns finding where each coordinate is. When time runs out group rotates until everyone has visited every set. I have been known to create 5-6 smaller coordinate planes instead of one large one, so that each group can have their own small one to work with instead of sharing the bigger one. Also, My more advanced classes walk around with graphing paper and have to identify coordinates on the paper as well as on the floor.
All in all, reviewing this information helps tons! It has been totally worth taking a class period to review. When we begin slope the day after IOPD even my weakest math students do well! When introducing the counting method, I remind them of the activity where they walked to individual points and tell them to imagine walking from point A to point B along the grid lines.
Do you have any tricks for teaching students to plot points, identify ordered pairs, or recognize the x and y axis on a coordinate plane? Let me know in the comment section below :)
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