Designing Effective Projects : Project-Based Units to Engage Students
Choreographing Math
Choreographing Math
At a Glance
Grade Level: 8-10
Subject: Mathematics
Topics: Algebra, Dance
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Decision Making, Creativity
Key Learnings: Linear Equations, Functions
Time Needed: 2 weeks, 1 hour each day
Background: Odyssey Story from Alabama, United States

Unit Summary
Students learn to graph linear equations and choreograph dance moves to demonstrate them. For example, students modeling the function y=x² hold both arms above their head (similar to the way a referee in a football game would indicate a touchdown), and they use a graphing calculator to create corresponding figures and graphs. Each dance is comprised of nine equation poses choreographed to music. Students videotape or photograph their dances, and combine these visual elements with screen shots of the equations and graphs into an electronic presentation.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How can we communicate through movement?
  • Unit Questions
    How do we read equations and graphs?
    How do we represent linear equations in different ways?
  • Content Questions
    How does a linear function differ from a quadratic function?
    How does changing the y-intercept in an equation change the graph of the equation?
Assessment Processes
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Choreographing Math Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.

Instructional Procedures
Introducing the Project
Ask students to discuss what communicating mathematically means. Engage students in discussion as they offer their ideas and opinions. Discuss how mathematical communication includes understanding, expressing, and conveying ideas orally, in writing, graphically, and algebraically. Introduce the idea that students will also learn how to communicate their mathematical understanding through movement by creating a dance comprised of nine equation poses.

Pose the Essential Question, How can we communicate through movement? Have students record this information in math journals and share ideas with the class.

Set the stage for the project by modeling a variety of functions with your arms. Play a popular song on the radio and move to the beat of the music. Ask students if they can identify the functions you model. For example, stretch your arms out at a diagonal to model the equation y=x. Invite students to join you by getting out of their seats and modeling a few basic functions to the beat of the music. Challenge them to name the equations of the functions they are modeling. 

Distribute the student handout and go over basic expectations for the project, including selecting equations, choreographing the dance, choosing music, and collecting visual elements of both the poses and the corresponding graphs and equations. Encourage students to supply props and costumes. Distribute and discuss common lines using the Common Lines Reference, a sheet of common graphs.

Getting to Work
Hand out the project rubric and the group task rubric so students are aware of project expectations. Check for student understanding and answer questions as needed. Students use the group task rubric to self and peer-assess their participation while working in groups. Allow two days for students, working in small groups, to discover families of linear functions by completing the graphing activity on a graphing calculator. After groups complete the activity and discuss their findings with the class, have them complete a four-question investigation so you can assess their understanding thus far. Make necessary adjustments to bring all students to a common point of understanding. Throughout the unit, teach formal lessons to develop students' understanding of linear equations.

Pose the Unit Question, How do we represent linear equations in different ways? Discuss ideas as a class. Then, begin a series of lessons to teach students to identify slope and write equations in standard form, point-slope form, and slope-intercept form. Have students document understanding of these concepts in their math journals. Collect journals and provide students with feedback. Use the journal entries to reteach concepts as needed.

Begin the dance choreography part of the project by reviewing the student handout. Show part of a sample presentation to demonstrate ways students might represent their functions. Have students reconvene into small groups. Make sure groups have a recording of their music as they choreograph their moves. Ask students to get their songs approved before bringing in music and starting work on their presentations. Graphing calculators will be useful for exploring the various functions they may want to model. Have students choose equations and develop corresponding poses for their dances. Have them experiment with the order of poses and the dance elements between each pose. Instruct students to graph each equation on a separate sheet of graph paper. When all of the groups have their choreography established, ask each group to turn in an outline of their group’s dance sequence to you. Review each outline and make necessary recommendations and comments to each group.

When the dances are ready, have students begin developing the multimedia slide presentations. Invite other school personnel to help students work on their projects. The dance instructor, physical education teacher, media center specialist, and video production teacher may be assets.

Give students digital cameras to take pictures of their poses as well as their graph and equation sketches. Have students draft 3- to 5-minute long slideshow presentations. Hand out the slideshow presentation checklist to students and make sure all students understand required expectations. Have students review and refine their presentations, and practice their delivery with one another. The groups can give feedback to each other using the peer assessment sheet.

Performing and Presenting
Plan for students to perform their dances and present their multimedia presentations. Invite other classes, parents, and administrators to watch. If your school has a video production class, allow students to film the dances and broadcast them into the various classrooms.

Revisit the Essential Question, How can we communicate through movement? Have students record their ideas in their math journals and make sure they provide concrete examples from the unit. Use these entries in final assessment.

Prerequisite Skills
  • Graphing ordered pairs, relations, and equations
  • Solving problems by making a table
  • Identifying the domain, range, and inverse of a relation
  • Determining if a relation is a function
  • Writing an equation to represent a function given its table of values
  • Analyzing linear equations
Differentiated Instruction
Resource Student
  • Modify work requirements if necessary
  • Provide extra time to complete assignments (possibly during resource classes)
  • Provide additional support from teachers and parents
Gifted Student
  • Encourage the student to investigate more advance functions, such as sine and cosine functions
  • Require the student to include more advanced technical attributes in the slideshow presentation
English Language Learner (ELL)
  • If possible, have the student work in groups with bilingual students who are more proficient in English
  • Use sample projects to provide visual aids
  • Provide music suitable to the student's culture
Brenda Levert teaches mathematics at the Academy for Academics and Arts in Huntsville, Alabama. Levert's classroom was featured in An Innovation Odyssey, a collection of stories of technology in the classroom, Story 152: Choreographing Math. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

Contact Education ›

Terms of Use | *Trademarks | Privacy ©Intel Corporation