Today, I want to share my favorite new way to help struggling students with graphing linear equations. At the end of last year, I was asked to provide a list of resources I would like in my classroom. One of the things I asked for was coordinate plane geoboards. [You can read about the rest of what I got here.] I asked for twelve of them, thinking that each pair of students could share. Now, I'm regretting that because I wish I had enough for every student to have their own.
These have been AMAZING. My kids have really enjoyed using them, and so many of the problems I've had in the past haven't been an issue this year.
Since I started teaching, I have always had a few kids who would "graph" by plotting the y-intercept and drawing a random line through it. Guess what? You can't do that with a geoboard. You have to have at least two pegs to make a line which means they HAVE to use the slope to find another point!
I also used to have students who would mess up on their slope and not realize it. For example, they would go up two and right one at one point instead of up three and right one. The line looks *almost* right, and usually, they would be fine with this. With the rubber bands, my kids know that if all the pegs are in the right spot, the rubber band will lie smoothly. There have been so many times when a kid has asked for help because the way the rubber band is laying has told them that something isn't quite right with their graph.
Since the x-axis and y-axis are movable, not all of my kids have graphs that look exactly the same. This leads to some awesome conversations that I never had when I just let my kids graph their lines on the dry erase boards. It also means my students can graph equations that wouldn't be possible to graph on our dry erase boards. I love watching them move the x-axis and y-axis as they work. It gives me hope that when they get to Algebra 2 that changing the window on the graphing calculator won't seem so weird.
Now, these boards do present a few problems. You can't graph fractional intercepts. Instead, we just have to graph the other points and check that the rubber band does cross the axis at the appropriate place. I warned my kids the first day we used these that the first time someone shot a rubber across the room that we would put them up, and I would hand out a packet of graphing worksheets instead. This seemed to do the trick. I never had anyone flick a rubber band (to my knowledge). I did get hit by a rubber band once, but it was a complete accident. I bought cheap containers (5 for a dollar) at Dollar Tree to store the rubber bands and pegs in. This helped A LOT, but I still had to pick up a lot of blue pegs out of the floor.