Teaching slope is one of the most foundational topics that we teach in middle grades. If we don’t do it right the first time, we have to play catch-up for a long time. My earliest experiences teaching slope were frustrating because I didn’t understand what made it complicated for students. Students have to be able to find slope on a table, a graph, two coordinate points, a verbal description, and in an equation. When you lay those all out and count them up, that’s a lot of things to understand. I used to go too far, too fast. I mean, think about it. When kids learned how to count, they had years to get the numbers down. I could be patient and take the time necessary to give them a solid foundation with slope.
At this point, I teach slope by itself (without introducing a y-intercept) and get students comfortable with what it represents, how to identify it in the different representations, and then have them compare slopes. If they have this as their foundation, everything will run more smoothly when we get to slope-intercept form. We start our slope adventure with a discovery lab. After the discovery lab we get into a variety of practice activities. Remember, there are 5 representations and 4 types of slope. They need a lot of practice.
Here are 11 activities to practice identifying slope:
Let’s dig in
Even if you don’t have time to complete all of these activities in your slope unit, they can be used as bell ringers, sponge activities, homework, and cyclical review. Each of these activities helps to practice different aspects of slope and has different strengths. Let’s look at what they each have to offer.
I love mazes. In my class we start just about everyday with a maze. Students love them and they aren’t very intimidating. They grab the maze on the way in the door and get right to work. After I take attendance, I check their mazes. Once they finish, I usually have them work on an error analysis prompt on the back of their maze.
This particular set of mazes includes three mazes for identifying slope. It has one maze for tables (seen below), one for graphs, and one for verbal descriptions (seen above). I use it during my slope unit and then again later in the year as cyclical review. If you wait a few months and use the same maze again, students don’t remember the original. The mazes themselves are easy to complete and you can see really quickly who’s getting it and who isn’t. I have them do their work on a whiteboard while they find their way through the maze. These mazes can be used with all readiness levels.
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Honestly, Slope Dude is one of my favorite ways to remember something. What a clever way to remember four types of slope. It’s a drawing of a face that shows the four different types of slope. You can see it illustrated below. You can have students draw this in their notebooks and explain it to each other.
Students remember the four types of slope this way. Also, it really helps them to keep a slope of zero and an undefined slope straight in their minds. If you haven’t used some form of slope dude before, I would really encourage you to give it a try.
Knockout games are interactive games that you play with the whole class. You present it on the overhead projector and the students choose questions. They do the work on a whiteboard and you have them show you their work. Kids get really into because they there are bonuses that can be good or bad. They get a kick out of losing all of their points. I can’t really explain why, but they love it.
This particular game, the Comparing Slope Knockout Game, has questions about comparing slopes in different forms. I made this game to reinforce some of the basics of slope. Some of the questions are fill-in the blanks and get students to really think about what slope represents. Other questions have two forms of a function and students have to identify which slope is greater. There’s a variety of questions and playing this game will help you see where students are with this skill. I really like to play this as a review for the test. It gives us a chance to tackle some misconceptions.
This Slope Game from Manga High will give your students a chance to practice slope independently and has a variety of question types. There’s a short tutorial that students can do before they play the actual game. They don’t have to do the tutorial, but it would be great for cyclical review. When playing, you work your way up to different levels. Many students like to play this type of game and it gives students instant feedback on how they’re doing.
Students can play this without a log-in and you can have them send you a screenshot of how they did. Another way to capture how they did is to just have students show you their screen. I find that having a little accountability goes a long way.
When I came across this slope activity from Math Equals Love it made me think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s so simple and it gives students a meaningful way to practice the four types of slope. The teacher from the blog post suggests that students do this activity in their interactive notebook. I think that’s a great idea. This year will be my first time doing this project and I plan on having students complete this as an anticipatory set in their INB.
To complete the slope drawing challenge, students draw their name with lines that have a positive slope, negative slope, zero slope, or undefined slope. They color code the different lines and have one color for each type of slope. My students like to draw and for some reason they seem to be obsessed with writing their name at this age. Even better, this provides great practice with key vocabulary for talking about slope. This idea is so simple, yet so effective.
If you aren’t familiar with Shmoop videos, this one is a great one to start with. It’s a short video that explains the basics of slope in a quirky way. This video focuses on what slope is generally and what it is in a mathematical sense. They show different examples and show the math.
I would suggest having something for the students to answer while they’re watching the video. For this video you might want to use the following questions:
-What is the formula for finding the slope when given two points?
-What letter is used to represent slope?
-Why do they use a mountain as an example of slope?
You may want to have students watch the video more than one time. Usually, I don’t have them write down anything the first time. Then, they answers the question during the second watching of the video.
Sometimes I get a little tired of paper and pencil activities. That’s why I like this slope matching game. Students have a set of cards and they have to match equations and graphs that have the same slope. It works well in my math lab class. Also, this game works great for cyclical review. I have it ready in a bin and when students finish early, they can play this game.
I found these two free activities over on Math in the Middle’s blog. She shares 32 cards with ordered pairs. There’s directions for two fun activities to do with these cards. The first has students work together to calculate the slope of the line that would cross through their two points. This would work great as an anticipatory set or practice activity. The second activity idea includes a free worksheet to pair with the 32 cards. Students walk around the room to find the ordered pairs that makes a line with the given slope. This blog post has complete directions for these activities, plus two free downloads.
Khan Academy: Slope on a Graph and Slope from Two Points
We don’t use Khan Academy a lot in my class, but if you’re looking for some more practice on identifying slope, the Slope on a Graph and Slope from Two Points activities definitely fit the bill. These activities are pretty basic and it include both graph and coordinate point examples. Also, if students need another explanation of slope, they can watch the videos that are included.
If you are looking for notes and an activity for finding the slope on a table, this download works. I would copy the notes on a half sheet and put them in the interactive notebook. This notes page would work well as a way to review after slope has been taught initially. I really like the worksheet because students get to graph the table onto the graph. Ultimately, students have to see how slope is connected to all of the different representations. When they have chances to find the same slope in multiple representations it cements this connection in their mind.
I love the game Guess Who? We played it in my childhood and I was excited to bring it to the math world. At its base, Guess Who? is just a game about characteristics, so it’s perfect for slope. In Can You Find The Slope? Game students draw a card and that is their slope representation. The person they are playing with also draws a card. Then, they take turns asking questions to try and eliminate slope representations off their board as they are trying to figure out the other person’s card (I have students put their boards in a dry erase sleeve and have them cross off eliminated options as they go. Then, you can also replay with the same boards by just drawing a new card). Basically, it is like playing two-way 20 questions. The first person to figure out the other person’s card wins.
This game works well as a means to get kids talking about math. You’ll want to model the types of questions they should ask. If you don’t they will ask unmathematical questions and it won’t really be helpful. Usually, I do a round of the game where the whole class is playing against me. That gives them a good base for their games. Then, I set them free! It’s a fun way to get a lot of practice with the different representations of slope.
Try one thing…
I know that sometimes it feels like there are so many ideas and so little time. Just try one thing that you haven’t done before. You don’t have to change everything you do, but you might find an activity type that you like. For example, I use knockout games a every few weeks because they just work with my kids. We use a maze just about everyday because it gets kids working on math right when they walk in the door. Don’t be afraid to find an activity that you like and use it over and over with different topics. Find what works for you and your students and make your class rock!
Thanks so much for reading! Until next time!
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