Analyzing Absolute Value Graphs

It took 2 months, but my Algebra 2 students are finally buying in. I'm exhausted (it's Friday) and today's quizzes are still ungraded, but I have a good feeling that they are now solid in their understanding of graphing Absolute Value. It feels so, so, so good to type this because, to be honest, I was becoming doubtful. Every day felt like a brand new start, and not in that inspiring "every day is a new day" kind of way! 

free Algebra 2

A little background
Every one of my students has an IEP because of a Math disability. Close to all of my students can't graph a slope-intercept equation and even fewer can give me the equation of a graphed line. As you can imagine, this has made it hard for them to learn how to graph and analyze nonlinear functions! Like, really hard. Like, we've been working up to today's quiz for over a month. BUT, I think they finally got it this week! The biggest roadblock hasn't been their lack of background knowledge; it's been their complete lack of self-confidence. Some have been with me from the beginning but others needed these 2 months to finally warm up to the idea that, yes, maybe they CAN actually do Algebra 2!

People ask if I like teaching Special Education and my answer is always "YES!". Yes, I love it. I love teaching Math to students who no longer think they can. It's my favorite thing!

absolute value graphs

Simple, simple activity
After reading this blog post by Mrs. E Teaches Math last week, Graph Free has become my new favorite graphing program - by far. It's awesome. I made 4 Absolute Value graphs in Graph Free and saved them onto my computer (right click, save as). You can see the values I used here (click to enlarge):

I then inserted them into 4 PowerPoint slides and numbered each one #1 through #4. This way I could keep track of which group of students I gave which graphs. I then inserted a table in PowerPoint and added "Domain", "Range", "y-intercept", "zeros", "Function", etc. that I later cut out to give to each group of students. On the day of the activity, each group of students got 1 graph and a pile of these little labeled characteristic slips. 

Now the fun began! Students were directed to find all of the characteristics of their graphs. When groups started getting distracted, I took it as a cue that they were done and it was time to rotate the sheets. The second group then checks the answers the first group gave and makes any necessary edits.

absolute value graph activity

Here you can see that the first group thought that the increasing interval was "1/1". The student who wrote this has difficulty with context and vocabulary and thought I was asking "How is the graph increasing?" Yes, the sides are going up by 1/1! Well, at least 1 side is:) The second group edited this answer and left the original answer of 1/1 on the paper. One of my favorite part of teaching Math, especially Special Education Math, is figuring out where exactly misconceptions come from. And I love having these misconception conversations with my students.

The last thing I did was put each graph under the document camera to discuss the final results. I think the kids really appreciated seeing everyone's work on the "big screen" and that everyone struggled in the same areas. It was a great way to wrap things up.

Scaffolded Math and Science

Keep it up!
I use this Algebra 2 quick check template so much throughout the year. It's a great way to keep continuity from one day to the next, give a quick assessment of understanding and to make warm ups super easy for me.  On Monday we're starting to learn quadratics in vertex form, so I'll graph one in Graph Free, shine it in the board and ask students to fill out their quick check. Because this will be the first time they've seen quadratics in vertex form, it'll also act as a preview for the day's lesson. 

absolute value graph activity

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