Kiss those Math Headaches GOODBYE!

Some ideas just slap you in the face.

I got slapped this morning as I was flying home from LA to Albuquerque. Those little cocktail napkins they hand out with “beverage service” often give me the urge to write. So this morning, nerdily enough, as I sipped my orange juice at 30,000 feet above the Salton Sea, I worked on figuring out a better way to help students grasp the difference in look between positive and negative slope.

That’s when I got “slapped.”

First, you must realize that I use the three-letter abbreviations of POS and NEG for positive and negative. Do some of you use these as well? I mention this because those abbreviations hold the key. You have to use the first letter of the NEG abbreviation and the last letter of the POS abbreviation.

Let’s start with NEG.

The first letter of NEG is, of course, “N.” But look what I noticed …

Visual Clue for Negative Slope

Visual Clue for Negative Slope

The trick for POS is a tad more complicated. But I’m hopeful it will work.

Visual Clue for Positive Slope

Visual Clue for Positive Slope

So what do you think? Will this work for your students?

If you test it out, please let me know what you find. I’m interested to know. Thanks!


Comments on: "Remember the Difference in LOOK between Positive and Negative Slope" (2)

  1. Kent Lasater said:

    Positive and Negative Slope: In all English and European based languages we read from left to right. Therefore in reading a graph, read left to right. If the graph line is rising as if climbing a ladder or thinking of your bank account growing, that is a GOOD and POSITIVE thing. If the graph line moves downward, I’m going down the ladder losing height or losing money which is a BAD and NEGATIVE thing.


    • Hi Kent,
      Very interesting to read your comment. I have used the very approach you describe for many years, and just recently I decided I want to have an alternative “up my sleeve.” The approach you describe is concept- and language-based, and it works great for students who favor this mode of thinking. But I’ve found that many students don’t recall this approach easily, and for many of them, a more visual approach works better. Therefore I’ve started devising ways of reaching these more visually-oriented students, and this approach to slope using the letters “N” and “S” is one of my first efforts. But I do agree that many students can and do remember the verbal-conceptual way that you describe. Thanks for sharing this.


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