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Cartesian Plane

October 7, 2011

I don’t know about others but I find it hard to believe that Canadian Thanksgiving is here already. It seems like only a few days ago school started. I guess the old saying “time flies when you are having fun” holds true.

This past week the middle school teachers at school were starting to investigate transformations on the Cartesian plane. We decided that a good place to start was with a scavenger hunt. Using Google Earth (Satellite view in other programs also works) we obtained a satellite view of the school. Gimp then provided the rest of the imaging that we needed to complete the task as a grid was superimposed on the satellite image.

Students in the 5 grade 7 classes then had to make some decisions:

  • What is the best scale to use?
  • Does it matter which scale is used?
  • Is there a need for consistency?
  • Where is the origin?
  • Does it matter where the origin is located?
  • Do people actually have to make these decisions in “real life?

All of these questions were great ones. I felt some real connections were made up to this point. The mapping aspect afforded an opportunity to discuss conventions and the need for consistency. Just like any other language it is important to have these conversations so we would all be talking about the same thing when we got out side.

Once the “Cartesian plane” was standardized questions were generated for the scavenger hunt. For example, “(10, -5) How many windows are on the south side of the building?” Since classes are less than an hour teachers agreed that we should limit the number of questions to eight. This would allow for 2 questions in each of the 4 quadrants. We had hoped that students would plot the coordinates and then proceed on their quest. This did not happen. As a result a few groups were unable to complete the quest in the time allotted.

This activity was great for examining the Cartesian plane, however, what were the other lessons:

  • Planning a problem solving strategy can be beneficial (those who plotted points first saved themselves a lot of running around).
  • The Cartesian plane (or any coordinate system) can be used to define a location in space.
  • Connections were made between a map and real objects in 3-D space.
  • Students ventured into areas of the school they had not seen since arriving at middle school.
  • Students can quickly determine if they have read coordinates correctly as well as a need to standardize the format for discussing coordinates.
  • Holding the map in the proper orientation and being able to orient the map based on physical characteristics in 3-D space is important in map reading.
  • Read instructions and questions carefully.
  • Working in a group (students were in groups of 3).
  • Communication skills.
  • Exercise

The grade 7 teachers hope to use this activity as part of the transformations unit in the near future. More on that in a separate post.

If you give this activity a try, please let me know how you improved on it. If you have tried it in the past … what worked for you?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jordan permalink
    February 11, 2012 3:07 pm

    Hi Richard, I was at the conference today, but I missed out on your morning session. Would you be willing to email me your handouts from that morning session? I heard that there were awesome student project ideas!

    • February 11, 2012 3:29 pm

      I would be happy to. I will send them later today when I can get my compute hooked to the net.

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