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Transforming Fish with a Graphing Calculator

Book Event

Graphing calculators are important tools for high school students but not for eighth-graders, right?

We know that in high school, graphing calculators are used for plotting algebraic functions. College students learning about limits in calculus. So we asked why eighth-grade students at the Lawrence School in Falmouth would need to learn to use them.

The idea, their teachers said, is to help them get comfortable using the calculators—before they encounter more abstract mathematical concepts. The challenge of learning both at once often overwhelms students in early high school math classes.

The Lawrence School teachers have found an engaging lesson on transformations and translations that allows their students to explore geometry at grade level and at the same time gives them positive experiences with the calculators. That's why they wanted to share it with others in the network. 

The lesson, called “Transforming Fish,” is one of the middle grades math activities published on the Texas Instruments website.

In the lesson, the students use a graphing calculator first to plot a fish. Many eighth grade students have already learned to plot points on graph paper, nailing the basics of graphing in a coordinate plane. But working only with pencil and paper, the students don't have time to explore transformations.

What happened for the Lawrence students as they began using their calculators for graphing was this: they found they could quickly manipulate the figures they had plotted. “Growing” and “shrinking” their fish graphs, the students found themselves exploring the concepts of similarity, translations, and transformations. 

We like the sound of that. And the way this lesson links technology, math content, and math practice standards.