The Algebra Toolbox

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. – Abraham Maslow

My Favorite Unit to Teach – Linear Functions


My favorite unit to teach is Linear Functions. Not sure why…I just think y=mx+b is a fun equation.  I always tell my students that I am going to get a y=mx+b tattoo on my forehead as soon as I get over my fear of needles.  As a result, I’ve had a couple of students make me t-shirts with the equation on it so that I don’t have to get the tattoo 🙂

y=mx+b t-shirt

y=mx+b t shirt

A couple of my favorite activities from this unit:

Rule of 4 for Linear Equations  (worksheets)  Throughout the unit we practice defining variables and translating word problems into equations, then creating a table of values and graphing the equation to show the relationship among the representations.

Desk Hop Linear Equations (activity in pairs): I have each of the 20 problems on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, spread out all over the library. The students get the answer sheet and rotate through the problems in any order to write and interpret the linear equations.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the original word document of the individual problems.  The link includes the answer sheet and the 2 pages that have all 20 problems on them that I made for students who were absent. This takes most of my students about 60 minutes to complete.

Writing an Equation from 2 Points Template I always a few students who really struggle with writing an equation if they are given two points. They do use the TI-84 graphing calculator eventually, but I want them to really understand where the equation comes from.  I put this template in a sheet protector or plastic communicator for those students and let them write on it with dry erase markers to do the substitution.

Matching Graphs to Standard Form and Matching Graphs to Slope Intercept Form and Graphs (activity in pairs) Copy each document onto cardstock.  Every pair gets the same graphs. Students who are ready use the equations in standard form, others use equations in slope-intercept form. Match the graphs to the equations.

I have two versions of a “y = mx+b” song: This one  is from a CD of math songs by Bob Garvey to the tune of  “YMCA.”  This one is a youtube video. My students prefer the beat of the video, but we sing the YMCA version in class and I have several of them act out the letters/symbols.

students doing y=mx+b dance

We also have the  Slope Song which we sing with a country twang (especially the “y’s over x” part).

My students really like Hot Seat reviews – they get so competitive!  Students are in lines in group of 4. The last person in each line gets the  Hot Seat Cards which are printed on card stock, one set per group of students, cut apart. The last person in the line chooses an answer then passes it to the person in front of them. That students looks at the answer and if he agrees, passes it up. If he disagrees, he passes it back. When the first person in the line gets and agrees with the answer, he holds it against his chest and turns toward me. The first group to get the correct answer gets 2 points, every group with a correct answer gets 1 point.

I do several foldables in this unit. One is the slope foldable. (I have my students do all the writing in their foldables). I tell them the mostly true story (except for the cliff part) about my first skiing experience.  Going UP the chair lift, I had a very POSITIVE attitude – skiing was going to be great! I had a new outfit and felt like a snow bunny.  Going DOWN the hill, I spent more time on my behind than on my skis and my friends made fun of me, I cried, and the snot froze to my face. So not the look I was going for.  It was a very NEGATIVE experience.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I was having ZERO fun, was exhausted, and closed my eyes. I failed to see the very steep cliff and skied right off the edge – words could not describe that feeling – it was UNDEFINED.  (One parent stopped me at the market to tell me they were so sorry about my sad skiing experience – too funny) Under each flap, the students draw a graph of a linear equation with each slope, write an equation in slope-intercept form with each type of slope, and describe what slope is all about.

inside the foldable

back of the foldable

Another foldable is for the whole unit. This one has “tabs” that we write the main topics on, then open the foldable to reveal the notes for each topic. This one used three pieces of paper, folded, then stapled together at the top.

Students add additional notes – this is my copy.

I teach mostly freshmen in my Algebra I class at the high school and adults in the developmental algebra class at the community college. I use these activities with both groups and they are very engaged!


Author: lzlomek

I teach high school Algebra I and am constantly looking for ways to improve my practice and engage my students!

35 thoughts on “My Favorite Unit to Teach – Linear Functions

  1. One word – WOW!!!! Holy moly, I feel like I stumbled into the gold mine of linear equation activities! Thank you!!!

  2. Wow…your activites are great. After seeing this post and the previous one…you are definitely added to my favorites. I look forward to reading more. Maybe one of these days I’ll get motivated enough to make my own blog! Thanks again!

  3. Thx u for all these golden nuggets. I’m teaching my linear unit right now and the things you’ve listed will be extremely helpful.

  4. I do the y=mx+b song, too! I also bought it from Bob Garvey at a conference years ago. It’s always fun, it made me happy to see it on your site.

  5. Wow these are such great ideas! I love your desk hop idea! Can’t wait to try these out! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thank you so much for all the wonderful ideas!!! I really appreciate!

  7. Pingback: Activities for Solving Equations « The Algebra Toolbox

  8. I love all of these ideas! Can I ask some more details about the foldables? Do you have the pictures drawn on the top and have students follow them with your story and have them graph under each flap, or do you have them draw the picture as you tell your story? I’m teaching this next week and I’d love to do this!

    • I give them papers with the graphs on them for them to cut out and glue under each flap. I have them draw the picture as I tell the story. They fold and cut the foldable before I start my story. Then we glue the graphs in and write in the notes. I made notes by cutting and pasting graphs…I will find it and scan it so I can send it to you. I’ll also take a picture of the inside of the foldable. Julie at I Speak Math is the foldable expert and she has a good one for slope too…

  9. Great post! I am just starting this unit right now, perfect timing to work in some of your awesome activities! Thanks!

  10. Glad to have stumbled by … through pinterest … our next unit is linear equations! I also teach 9th graders algebra … and finding just the right activities to keep them engaged and learning is my goal! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this! I stumbled upon your blog from a pin I found on Pinterest.

  12. I just wanted to share this video on you tube that goes perfectly with your foldable on slopes. The video is a bit slope but to the point!

  13. I want to thank you for putting your work out there. This is EXCELLENT! I am utilizing many of your ideas with my students in hopes of helping them achieve more.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you found something that is useful. Please let me know of any changes/modifications you make to make things more engaging or useful for your students. I’m always looking to make things better 🙂

  14. Hello! These activities are fun. I hope you continue to discover activities that would make mathematics fun for the students 🙂

  15. I LOVE, LOVE, the activities you shared. Thanks a million

  16. All of these are GREAT! I’m going to use them! I love the videos! Another math teacher and I were in her trying to do the dance. Talk about HILARIOUS!

  17. This is an amazing post!! I plan on using all of this!

  18. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas and hard work!

  19. Do you have a key for the Writing an Equation from 2 Points Template? LOVE your blog!

    • There really isn’t a key. Just give the students 2 points and they fill them in at the top of the page and work their way down. It’s a guide for keeping themselves straight with where the numbers go. Thanks for reading!

  20. This looks amazing! I am sadly teaching math again after not teaching it for 8 years because I got my life science license and have been teaching BIology! I REALLY need a refresher on this stuff and I am stuck using connected math which contains absolutely no lesson on what linear equations and slope are, let alone how to use all of it! It just says “write an equation!” I could really use some extra help with this! Your ideas are amazing, but i really need some coaching of my own on how to do all this again!

  21. These look awesom…I will be using them this week! Thanks for sharing

  22. I love your activities. I sometimes take the “rule of 4” a little further – and after they have done worksheets like yours – I give them equations to come up with their own word problem. Then they have to write the story, graph it, make a table and solve the equation for y or f(x) . I usually have them do a poster of their problem. It’s fun to see their stories and it helps them work out word problems when they see how to use the equation to write them. Great blog!

  23. Will be starting linear functions in another week or so and I’ve seen variations of some of your activities before but I like how you have everything divided up.

  24. This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing this. My students thank you even more than I do!

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