Do you want to make your unit about distance formula awesome? I know, I know silly question. Well, I’ve got you covered. The goal of this post is to share a cadre of low prep and awesome ideas for teaching and practicing with the distance formula. While this topic baffles some, armed with these ideas you will engage your students for sure. We’ve got a variety of activity types as well like anticipatory sets, modeling, practice, and extension ideas. If you want ideas on how to plan your instruction, you can also read more here. Let’s get started with the list of activities:
- Discovery Lab
- Doodle Notes
- Shmoop Video
- I Do, We do, You Do
- Distance Formula Face
- Scavenger Hunt
- Illutrative Mathematics
- Water Park Project
Discovering the Distance Formula
We always do a discovery activity before any notes. This way students start off with a background and they can make meaning of the concept before they receive information from the teacher.
I don’t usually included this activity in activity lists because I have an entire blog post dedicated to it. This time I am making an exception because this discovery lab was so beneficial to my students that it was transformational. What I mean is that my students, most of whom struggle extensively in math, really got the distance formula with this activity. This activity guides kids toward deriving the distance formula. They have to struggle, but in the end they know where the formula comes from. It takes their understanding to the next level.
After this activity and a little practice I had a student say, “We should have learned this in 3rd grade. It’s so easy.” That reaction excited me. What a stark contrast to other years. Try this activity if you want to get even your struggling learners to own the distance formula.
Anticipatory Set or Hooks
I love having a hook at the beginning of the lesson. Lessons always run smoother when students get hooked into it first. Sometimes we feel like there isn’t enough time, but if it is done right, then the rest of lesson is so much more valuable. It also serves as a way to review on a daily basis and build background.
I have been using doodle notes for an anticipatory set on the distance formula. Doodle notes are a great review of the key terms and ideas of a concept. The twist is that students can color code it themselves to help make another mental connection for the concept. For the specific one I used I cut off the midpoint formula. Midpoint does not show up in our standards and I didn’t want to confuse kids with even mentioning things like this.
To use these doodle notes for the anticipatory set, I placed the answer key on the doc cam and had the students fill-in as much as they could. When they got stuck they had the answer key to refer to. They also had the chance to decide what and how they wanted to color it. It was a little long for a hook, but I really liked how engaged the kids were working on it.
This series of videos using quirkiness and silliness to engage students in math. This particular video lasts for 3:28. It riffs off of Lord of the Rings and tells of story of trying to return the One Donut of Power to its rightful place. There is a detailed example of how the distance formula works. Students like it because it differs from the videos that just have a person talking about a list of steps.
While they are watching I make sure that they have something specific that they are looking for. In this video we looked for the distance formula. I gave them a small list of questions to answer while they watched. The combination of a compelling video and a purpose to watch (clear idea of what they are looking for) makes this a great way to start a lesson.
Modeling and Teaching
After the discovery lab there we spend time taking notes and doing problems together. This can take on many forms. I don’t always use the same methods for modeling. Here is what I did to model and teach this topic.
I’m sure you know about the concept of I Do, We Do, You Do as a way of releasing control to students. It’s a great way to think about supporting students while moving them towards independence. First, the teacher models. Next, the teacher and the students do problems together. Last, students work independently. I got into an I Do, We Do, You Do phase when I was creating some activities a while back and created this set. I use SmartPals for the I Do and We Do section because it uses a lot less paper. The We Do section is printed for each student. This activity helped to reinforce the other activities and prepared students for further practice.
Also included in this resource is I Do, We Do, You Do for finding the distance between two points on a graph. Students learn to use the Pythagorean Theorem to find the distance. This aspect of this standard has to be taught as well.
When I spent a month filling in for a high school Geometry I felt like I got thrown into the fire. I felt very unprepared and I relied heavily on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. One of my favorite things that I found was this tip from Mrs. E Teaches Math. Students can easily see the face in the formula and it helped many of them to remember the formula. I used it as a backup for my 8th graders. The majority remembered the formula without it, but it served as a little extra padding for everyone.
Ways to practice the distance formula
After students have a solid foundation they are ready to practice using the distance formula. In this collection you will find ways of practicing that can be done with partner, individually, or with the whole class. I love to have a variety of activities to keep students engaged.
I have seen many different ways that people organize scavenger hunts. What I like to do with my scavenger hunts is place the problems around the room and have students work in partners to solve problems. Usually, I have students check their answers with me before going to the next one. Once they can show proficiency then they don’t have to get checked after each problem anymore.
There are 6 problems for distance formula and 6 for finding the distance between two points on a graph. Students love this activity because they get to move around. Also, they work with a partner which keeps them working and engaged. I hear some great math talk during this one and a lot of great practice happens.
If you have never played Kahoot with you classes then you are in for a treat. My kids love Kahoot. Even the high school students I worked with loved it. You will need an internet connected device for each student and your computer connected to a project. Once you start the game, students choose a name and the questions begin. There are 4 answers to each question and students get points based on accuracy and speed.
In my class we have a running commentary about who is a better basketball player Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving. The other day when we played it one of the students signed in as Kyrie and I knew who it was. I am on team Curry so I gave him a hard time as we played. He was at the top of the game board most of the game. I encouraged everyone to try and beat him. He was determined to win. It came down to the last question and he got it wrong. He was beating himself for the mental mistake. Apparently, he was far enough ahead to still win. This added a lot of fun to class and everyone felt like they were a part of it.
If you want a fun, free, and engaging way to practice distance formula with the whole class try this one out.
Illustrative Mathematics is a great place to find challenge questions and performance tasks. This task in particular is amazing because it gets kids thinking about the Pythagorean Theorem, the distance formula, and graphing. It has them find the distance of three sides of triangle on a graph that isn’t a right triangle. They have to make a square around the triangle and use the Pythagorean Theorem 3 times. Also, it reinforces the derivation of the distance formula. It’s a great challenge and gets kids really thinking.
Project based learning
Our pacing guide doesn’t have a lot of room for project based learning. We usually find time for it near the end of the year.
I want to try this project with my kids because it incorporates multiple concepts. It has distance formula, slope, and proportional relationships. I have not used this one, but I plan to during the last month of school. Kids get so engaged when they do something like this. The idea comes from a freebie on TPT called Linear Equations: Water Park Project. You can see pictures of it on Mrs. W’s Math Connection.
Basically, students are given parameters to build a water park. They make their design on a larger piece of paper. Students work in groups. It is broken down into daily tasks which I love so kids don’t get off task. In the end they have a super product that show their design and they have practiced a lot of math in an applied way.
Try one thing for distance formula
As part of my job I coach other teachers. I have learned that the best way to make big change is to make one small one at a time. I give you the same challenge. If you are overwhelmed thinking about trying so many new things, then just Try One Thing.
Check out all our resources for this topic here.
Until next time.
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