Bare Bones Lessons: Human Graph Photo Shoot


On my bike ride to work today I was thinking about the quote by Bob Dylan, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” So then I asked myself, “What do I want to do today?” I decided that what I didn’t want was to spend all day inside. 

I hatched a plan to do some human graphing. I broke my class into three large groups and put three different rules on the board. Rules such as, “Take your number, multiply it by 2, and then subtract three,” and, “Square your number, then add 2.” I told each group that they were a new musical act and that they were doing a photoshoot for their new album. I asked them to choose a director. The job of the director was to read the rule, then take the picture when she felt the group was ready. It was the job of the rest of the group to tell each other whether they were doing it correctly or not. Then I told them to send me the picture when they were done and that I needed to make some tea while they got started.

Tea in hand, I headed outside to see how they were doing. Each group was discussing how to deal with applying the rule to each individual number. I took a seat and watched but didn’t intervene. After all the groups were done, we went back inside to analyze the photos as a class. I asked the director to come up and explain the photo to us by telling us where the axes were and how they were oriented. We then as a class decided whether or not their graph was correct. The graph above was supposed to be a parabola but a couple of students were out of place so they had to go back outside and correct their graph and send me a new photo. To finish up, each student needed to write the three rules on a piece of paper and along with each rule they needed to write the equation and graph that went with it.

That was it, my introduction to graphing linear functions. No textbooks or worksheets needed, just a bunch of people out on a beautiful day, doing something that they wanted to do. And that felt like success to me.

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