The Algebra Artist

  • The Algebra Artist

    Darin Beigie
    Students create drawings with online software and are inspired to think holistically about graphing algebraic equations and inequalities.
    Graphs of algebraic equations are usually brought to life by studying them in the context of real-world applications. The slope of a line has meaning when used to study how life expectancy in the United States has grown over the last century (Murdock, Kamischke, and Kamischke 2002) or how a spring’s length depends on the number of attached weights (Winter and Carlson 1993). Abstract settings for graphs of algebraic equations can also be a rich source of student intrigue and deep learning. A classic example is the target-oriented software environment of Green Globs & Graphing Equations (http://www .greenglobs.net/), in which students create graphs to destroy a random collection of thirteen circular green targets in the coordinate plane.
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    Penelope Tolle - 6/7/2019 3:30:34 PM

    I was nearing the end of the year in my second-year Algebra class and many of my students were missing class because of IB and AP testing, so I created a project that could be completed in class and at home on the material in this article and similar article in the March 2017 MT journal. I don’t know quite what made this such a popular activity, but the results were beyond what I had expected. Students, even the mathematically challenged, loved the challenge of accurately creating letters of the alphabet (to spell out a word of their choice) using the functions they had learned that year, and in previous years. I had only a few students who produced words that only used horizontal and vertical lines, along with the standard linear function, but they still had to place the lines accurately to form the parts of letters. My rubric for scoring allowed a mistake to be counted only once, so that if it was obvious that the same mistake appeared multiple times in one letter or a couple of similar letters, it was only counted as one error. On the worksheet they handed in, they provided the word they were creating, and the individual functions used to create each separate piece of the letters of the word along with the restricted domains and ranges for each of their functions. All I had to do was put each of their functions into a graphing “device” according to the domain restrictions for each function, showing where that function begins and ends, and then look to see if the word appears when graphed; then count up the errors. Seeing students persist at trying to get their restricted domains was worth every minute spent on this activity.