Sunday, January 15, 2012

Feed Your Students a Hot Cup of Alphabet Slope

Years ago I found this short "Sloping Letters" activity which asks students to view the letters of the alphabet as line segments with positive, negative, zero or undefined slopes.  I liked the idea because it makes students focus only on visually identifying slopes, which is a skill that makes all the follow-up easier. 

As we were revisiting slope last week, I took that idea and expanded it: I had my students break down every letter of the alphabet and label the slopes of each segment.  I call it Alphabet Slope.

First, we did quick notes on the four types of slope mentioned above.  The way I explained it, depending on how you look at certain letters, you can break them down in multiple ways: for example, the letter D could be made up of an undefined slope and a non-linear piece as seen above, or you could include two small zero slope segments on the top and bottom.  I didn't go as far as have students turn the letters into blocky versions that had no non-linear parts, but you could very well do that with your kids.

The Sloping Letters activity is a great wrap-up for the Alphabet Slope activity.  It forces the students to look back at their work and think about the pieces. 

If they've studied slope before, this will take about 25-35 minutes, but for students looking at it for the first time, it might take a bit longer.

Alphabet Slope activity (PDF)
Sloping Letters follow-up activity

Do you have other ideas about helping students visually identify slopes, or to think about slope in different ways?  Share them in the comments.