Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 4: The Coordinate Plane

This is a bit delayed because I had the opportunity to head to Annapolis this weekend for one of the STEM Teacher Training events hosted by the US Naval Academy.  If you are involved in STEM teaching, I highly recommend this experience (and probably should blog about it, but...yknow, life).

So, a quick recap of this past week as we began exploring the Coordinate Plane...

Day 1: Creating a Need for Precise Vocabulary

If you haven't used the Polygraph activities by Desmos, you definitely need to incorporate them.  Students play a "Guess Who" type game with a random classmate requiring them to utilize precise vocabulary to determine which of a series of images has been selected via yes/no questions.

I usually start our Coordinate Plane week with Polygraph: Points.  While a few of my students come to me with the vocabulary needed for this topic, many do not.  This game develops the need for precise vocabulary as students discover that words like section, line, and corner result in miscommunication.  I pause periodically throughout the activity so that students can look at the questions their classmates are developing and we can throw in a new term to help us better communicate with our mystery partner.  By the time we log off, we have talked about terms like horizontal, vertical, x-axis, y-axis, quadrant, and even point (rather than dot).  All of this serves to help the notes the next day "stick" a bit better.

Day 2: Measuring Two Things at Once 
and Developing our Vocabulary

Before we start on our notes for the day, I want to start to expose the class to the idea that a coordinate plane is used to measure two variables simultaneously. In their Thinking Space, I give them two minutes to write what they notice from this Emoji Graph from Jo Boaler's Week of Inspiration which I had also posted on our class Instagram the previous night:
Students take turns sharing out their noticings which serve as launching points for some discussions.  The conversation that ensues when they share out varies a bit from class to class.  Several noticed that there were more emojis in the upper right quadrant than any other, so we made note of that.  There is a lot of prompting to recognize that we can read the graph horizontally if we want to look at frequency of use (i.e. "Which emoji do you think gets used the most often?  The least?") and vertically if we want to look at cuteness (i.e. "Which emoji does the creator of the graph think is the cutest? The least").
As a follow-up to our conversations, I posted this image on our Instagram that evening and asked them to comment about their noticings:

I also challenged them to decide on what measures they might use if they were creating such a graph. I am really sorry that it was a short week, because it would've been fun to have them work in groups to try to create graphs of different themes.  If I was teaching Sixth Grade next year, I would definitely incorporate that as a follow-up.
Notes time...
I write the notes under a document reader and do so anew for each class period.  This allows me to pause throughout the notes to check for understanding and often throw a formative assessment question or two at them to complete in their thinking space.  This week's notes were pretty standard.

Day 3: Find the Treasure
Practice Plotting Points

I let students know that fluency with plotting points is going to become incredibly important in their mathematical careers.  We spend our third day playing a variation of Battleship that I call Pirate Treasure Hunt. In previous years, I have launched the class with pirate themed music but the
selections this year sounded more to me like a beer pub so I wasn't feeling it.  Basically, I "hide" a treasure somewhere on my coordinate plane.  As teams, they take turns telling us where to "dig" and I let them know whether or not they have found treasure.
In previous years, I had each of them record the hits/misses on individual dry erase coordinate planes. This year, I gave each team one board and they had to pass it between members for each new dig.  I found that they seemed more engaged as they were checking on each other and I was able to more quickly determine whether they were plotting correctly.
We end class with a brief exit slip so that I can assess their understanding.

Day 4: Revisiting the Two Variable Idea and
Fluency with Point Plotting

We started our day by revisiting the idea that a coordinate plane allows us to measure two different things at the same time (I neglected to use the term variable with them just yet, and I'm second guessing that decision a bit).  We did this by doing an abbreviated exercise using Mathalicious' lesson, Origin Stories.  We rated breakfast foods on the healthiness and deliciousness scales being very careful to always rate healthiness first because that was our x-axis. The objective was to reinforce both the idea that a coordinate plane is using two number lines at once to measure two different things, and the idea that we plot on the x-axis first.  The kids enjoyed the activity and were incredibly animated. As with the Emoji graphs, I would definitely spend a bit more time with this lesson next year if time would allow.
Today was all about  providing them more practice in gaining fluency with point plotting.  In two of my classes, I have the support of a collaborative teacher.  We often use the results of our weekly exit slips to do some differentiation toward the end of the week. Today, one of them was absent so that hindered us a bit. However, in one class, my partner took those whose exit slip performance indicated some confusion and worked more directly with them on practice.  The rest of the students self-differentiated by selecting a graphing points picture by difficulty level and working independently. A little Damien Escobar music and a nice chill day practicing points. I didn't really require them to complete the assignment, just work for the duration of our class period. Several completed the Easy selection and then began working on the Medium difficulty.  Still others asked if it was okay to take it home and keep working on it. Ummmm, yes.

Next Week....Distance on the Coordinate Plane. :)

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