I created this fly activity to introduce my students to the history of the coordinate plane and give them much-needed practice graphing ordered pairs.
In college, I was always taught to begin my lesson plans with an anticipatory set. I always struggled with these. I couldn’t quite remember my teachers ever using them when I was in school. How in the world would I be able to come up with one of these for every lesson that I teach?
I wish I could say I have mastered the anticipatory set. I haven’t. Most days, the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. But, I’ve certainly become more creative. My goal is that when students enter my classroom that their curiosity is piqued. What are we doing today? Why are there tennis balls on your desk? Why are the desks arranged differently? Or, today, “Why are there flies everywhere? That’s just weird.” To this, I responded, “Flies? Sorry, I haven’t noticed any.”
The flies were kinda hard to miss. There were twenty of them. And, that was the point. I wanted my students to be wondering what today’s lesson was going to be about.
Have you figured it out yet? I don’t know how true this story about Descartes and the invention of the coordinate plane is, but I don’t really care. I like the story, and I had a blast sharing it with my students. I told them that this story was from long ago, long before they had anything like electricity. “Do you mean this story is from 19 years ago?” Ummm…electricity had been invented nineteen nears ago.
I pieced together my version of the story from several different versions I found online. Rene Descartes was a sickly child. He was smaller and weaker than his peers. His father sent him off to boarding school. The school master was worried about Descartes. His theory was that if Descartes slept more, he would become stronger. So, Descartes was forced to remain in bed until late in the morning. He would lay in bed and ponder life and all things scientific and mathematical.
This habit carried over into his adult life. He often stayed in bed until almost noon. One day, Descartes noticed a fly on the ceiling while he was laying in bed. He watched it buzz to and fro, to and fro. And, he started to wonder. What if I wanted to share the exact location of the fly on my ceiling with someone else? After thinking about this for sometime, he determined that the location of the fly could be determined with precision if you knew the distance of the fly from two walls. From this epiphany, the idea of the coordinate plane system was born. Descartes never actually graphed on a coordinate plane, but he made it possible. The end.
“Oh, so that’s why there are flies on the wall.”
Next, I brought out my new favorite algebra teaching tool – my shower curtain coordinate plane.
When I pulled out my coordinate plane after discussing the invention of the coordinate plane, my students had incredulous looks on their faces. I’m surprised that I can do anything nowadays that will still shock them. “Did you make that?” Yes. They, of course, wanted to know what it was made out of.
I laid the coordinate plane in the floor and instructed my students to get out their interactive notebooks. We created a foldable about ordered pairs and a foldable about the parts of the coordinate plane.
After taking notes, my students were ready to do some coordinate graphing on their own. I invited the students to look around the room and pick their favorite fly “But they’re all the same.” “I don’t care. Just pick your favorite fly.” I pulled up a random name generator that I have saved in my favorites that I have already typed my class rosters into. I let the computer randomly pick a name. That student was tasked with taking a fly down from the wall. On the back of each fly is an ordered pair to graph. The student had to stand on the origin and walk through the process of graphing the point on the coordinate plane. The next person chose another fly from the wall and graphed it.
My students had a blast! We ran out of time for all the students to have a turn, and some of my students insisted on staying after the bell rang to have their turn. Of course, there were some students who acted like they were too cool to stand on the coordinate plane and graph. Nobody made any comments about it being too elementary. I loved it!
Even though the coordinate plane isn’t the sturdiest or toughest, I think it stood up fine today after being used by three sections of Algebra 1. I’m definitely looking forward to using this new resource throughout the rest of this year.
Free Download of Fly Activity for Graphing Ordered Pairs
More Resources for Teaching the Coordinate Plane
- Winter Mystery Tangram Puzzle
- Christmas Mystery Tangram Puzzle
- Thanksgiving Mystery Tangram Puzzle
- Halloween Mystery Tangram Puzzle
- 8 Fun & Engaging Coordinate Plane Activities
- Parts of the Coordinate Plane Graphic Organizer
- Parts of the Coordinate Plane Magnets
- Graphing Ordered Pairs Graphic Organizer
- Kangaroo Coordinate Picture
- Coordinate Plane Fly Swatter Game
- DIY Shower Curtain Coordinate Plane
- Fly Activity for Graphing Ordered Pairs
- Parts of the Coordinate Plane Foldable
- Coordinate Plane Foldable