Friday, March 21, 2014

Discovering Slopes

Along with delivering most of our course material in a BYOD format, I've been trying to get my students to do more hands-on, independent work with their devices. 

I've been a pretty traditional teacher up until now, and the thought of giving my students open-ended tasks still scares me. But they LOVE it, and the work that comes back is not only creative and original, but also demonstrates a really high level of understanding.

Here is a short assignment my grade 10 math students did during our unit on linear equations: Real Life Slopes of Real Life Lines.

Basically, they had to go out into the school and...
  • Find five objects that demonstrated slope
  • Measure the slope of the objects by measuring the vertical displacement (rise) and horizontal displacement (run)
  • Calculate the rate of change
  • Document the objects by taking pictures on their devices

I was amazed both with what the students found, as well as the number of ways they approached the project!

I had thought of a couple of obvious examples (stairway railings, a broom leaning against a wall), but the students went all out, identifying sloped lines in murals, artwork, open doorways, garbage cans, accessibility ramps, magazine holders, tablet cases (propping up a tablet), triangular tiles, pieces of desks... I had no idea there were so many slopey things in the school!

Some students had trouble finding examples of slopes, so they MADE slopes by leaning books up against a printer and tipping a table at an angle. I had never suggested to them that they could make their own - it's something they came up with independently!

One student chose instead to identify right angles within the classroom (on pictures, tabletops) and then use those values as her rise and her run to find the slope of the diagonal connecting the two sides.

The students enjoyed the freedom of being let loose in the school, and they experienced a lot of success. This project has also become a reference point when calculating slope on a graph back in the classroom - they remember doing the measurements larger-than-life, and can apply what they've learned back to a plain old graph.

I would love to do more of this type of activity with my students. Any suggestions? Have you done something similar (or, very different)? I'm always looking for new ideas!


  1. This is fun! Thanks for sharing. Here is a post about a fun, silly activity another teacher did with slope.

    1. Love it! I need to take more advantage of specialized apps like that :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love how you made math so meaningful here! It's great to see your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, and it's clear that the students loved the activity. This year, my Grade 5's worked together to try and design a new classroom for the full-day Kindergarten program. I gave them possible hallways and measurements that they needed to use (a range of measurements that is), and they could get creative. It was great to see them calculating area and perimeter in such a meaningful way, and it's a project that they still talk about now. I wonder if there might be a similar need in your school (not for an FDK class, but for another grade class). This could make for a fun project, and students could even create their model classrooms in Minecraft (making that link for you as well). I'm excited to see what you do!



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