Graph yourself

One of my favourite lessons on graphs is when I use the floor of my classroom as the xy plane. I fix an origin in the middle of the floor (in order to make sure negative coordinates are included). I use masking tape to represent the axes along the floor, with masking tape dashes marked on the axes at appropriate points. A little bit of movement of chairs can ensure that students are seated in rows and columns on the coordinate plane. I ask a few questions and then allow students to come up with some questions of their own. In my experience, things can advance at quite a rapid pace, and even expand into graphing inequality regions and quadratics. Below, you will see a mixture of my questions and some of the questions my students have come up with. I also use Geogebra (if you have not used it, this is one of my favourite free resources available to download at to represent some of the information simultaneously on the whiteboard. There is great scope for discussion about what is graphed on the board and this often results in student-led conclusions. For example, the students can see how the equation y = x + 2 is the same as, or shorthand for, ‘your y-coordinate is 2 more than your x-coordinate’.

Stand up if:

  • you are the point (1, 2), (–1, 0), (–2, –1) etc.
  • you are the origin
  • your y-coordinate is 2 more than your x-coordinate
  • your y-coordinate is 1
  • your x-coordinate is 0
  • you are on the line y = 2
  • you are on the line x = –1
  • you are on the line y = x
  • you are on the line y = –x
  • your x-coordinate is less than 2
  • your y-coordinate is greater than –2
  • you are a reflection of the point (2, 1) in the x-axis/line y = 2
  • you are a translation of the point (0, –2) right 2 and ‘up’ 3 (with some discussion as to what up and down means)
  • you are on the line y = x + 1
  • you are on the line x + y = 2
  • you are in the region y > x
  • you are in the region y ≤ 1
  • you are on the line y = 2x
  • you are on the line y = 2x – 1
  • the gradient of your line is 2 (this was a student’s suggestion and created a great deal of interesting debate along with ‘stand up if you are on a line parallel to y = 1’)
  • you are on the curve y = x2
  • you are the point where the line y = 1 crosses y = x + 2


Debbie Barton is a teacher, examiner and maths consultant with over 20 years’ experience. She’s written a number of books including Complete Mathematics for Cambridge Secondary 1. She also worked as a Gifted and Talented trainer and is passionate about ensuring able students are challenged with exciting stimulus. 

One thought on “Graph yourself

  1. Rachael says:

    I really like your idea of teaching graphs to students by setting up an axis on the classroom floor. I believe that this allows the students to actively participate in the content which, I think, is very important in allowing students to understand key graphing concepts. I will have to remember to try this the next time I am teaching a graphing lesson.

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