Polar Graphing Activities

Happy #mtbosblaugust once again!! I was thinking about some of the activities I did in Honors Precalculus and AP Calc last year to reinforce some new or tough ideas, thinking about what worked and what to use again this year. I’ll briefly try to describe something I learned last summer at an APSI from Dr. Joe Brandell, our AP Calc guru!

Graphing polars is a topic discussed in my honors Precalculus class since we now have a majority students who move onto AP Calculus BC. I do everything from plotting points by hand, plotting on graphing calculators and on Desmos. All seem abstract to my students but they are fun to play with, especially with sliders on Desmos. I don’t want to even think of a time before Desmos existed!

Back to the activity from Dr. Joe. He introduced our group to human polar graphing!! You will need a long rope and a lot of space, oh, and a class of students! Depending on how new or quick students are at computing the radius from given theta, you may want to give them an equation or two to create a table. Pick a point to be the pole (origin in polar) and how far out a radius of 1 or 2, etc. will be.

The first student will hold onto the end of the rope and find their first point in the polar space you created. Then the next volunteer will hold onto the rope at the point of the second coordinate, etc. Eventually, a circle or a cardioid or a rose…will be in the space with kids as the coordinates and the rope as the curve! Human Polar Graph!!

Another polar graphing activity that I do thanks to Infinite Sums can be found here. Now, his goes on and on and I strive to do that with my group! We started small this year.

It was very fun, and who doesn’t love to create with sidewalk chalk?! This is a great activity to get the students to practice plotting points and graphs. It usually shows up at a nice time of year where we need to get out of the class.

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