# Graphing Stories

Graphing Stories was a great addition to my class this year. It started as the Possible or Not activity that I used during our first unit (about functions, operations, input, output, etc.) and grew as I made my own graphs on Desmos to draw out understandings of new function types.

In addition to the learning value of the stories, they were also kind of fun — especially those for graphs that weren’t functions.

At first I required students to write or type their stories; then I provided individual whiteboards so they could just jot them down; then, sometimes, I let students share their stories without writing them anywhere first. Sometimes I meticulously demonstrated an interpretation of the graphed information, while other times it was merely a discussion.

I dictated that we were looking at distance vs. time graphs, but had the students make decisions about what units the time and distance were measured in and what they were measuring distance from. (In the future I might alternate between determining those measurement details myself and asking the kids to do it.) I almost always had to remind students to include observations about speed. (Relatively slow or fast? Constant? Getting faster or slower?)

On tests I included the extending challenge of providing a story and asking students to sketch the matching graph.

During the end of year review, the student who chose this section (Interpreting Graphs) for which to plan his own review activity took the opportunity to bring us all outside. He had prepared 5 graphs using different function types and distributed copies of those graphs to the two teams. On the basketball court the teams took turns acting out a graph’s story while the other team figured out which graph it was.

An extension that I’ve considered but not tried is taking the graph’s action from a book or film students are studying in another class.

# Mathphrase

Even after my vocab-building epiphany, I was inclined to be overly forgiving of slow vocab development. Fortunately my school has speech-language pathologists on staff to collaborate with teachers, and my SLP was quick to direct me toward more exact standards.

For example, one of our favorite vocab-building activities was Math Catchphrase (later dubbed “Mathphrase”). I laminated little cards with mathematical terms on them (some were review words, others were new for current material). Then we played Catchphrase, but instead of reading the word from the disk you pass around, students grabbed their word from a turned-over stack of cards in the middle of the table. On each corner of the table was a piece of paper with the words “Skip Zone,” where students could put the words they had to skip so we could talk about them at the end of the round. After watching us play it once, my SLP saw that the game needed an obvious external incentive for the students to use mathematical descriptions of the words instead non-mathematical ones. So I spruced up the scoring system to reward mathematical descriptions, which made a big difference. Unlike regular Catchphrase, we would reshuffle the words and play again with the same stack for the sake of repetition and reinforcement.

For her end-of-year review, a student came up with her own vocab game (“Draw, Act, or Describe”) that I’m excited to throw into the mix this coming year to prevent overusing Catchphrase.