How to teach maths coordinates

Written by lee johnson Google
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How to teach maths coordinates
Coordinates used in combination with geographical directions pinpoint real-world locations. (Getty Thinkstock)

Understanding coordinates and how they are used is an essential part of Key Stage 2 mathematics. For a teacher, there are many hands-on, practical methods of introducing students to coordinates which can bring the classroom to life. Showing the students how coordinates can be used to plot points and describe the positions of objects within a space demonstrates their numerous practical uses. You can use a “Battleships” style game to get children reading points from a graph and positioning objects on the x and y axes.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Whiteboard/chalkboard
  • Graph paper
  • Rulers
  • Pens/pencils

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  1. 1

    Distribute the graph paper one piece per student, and ensure that everybody has a ruler and something to write with. Explain to the children that you’re going to be playing a game which involves coordinates based on the classic game “Battleships.”

  2. 2

    Introduce the overall concept of coordinates. You can use your position, or “point,” within the room to show how they can relate to locations. Ask your students how they’d describe your position within the room. Tell them that you could describe it more precisely if you imagined that there was a grid on the floor, covering the carpet with perfect squares. Then you'd know that you were three spaces across and two up from the closest corner. Tell them that this is basically how coordinates work.

  3. 3

    Draw an x-axis and a y-axis on the board and label them accordingly. Plot an “x” in the appropriate position to show how your location it the room could be shown on the graph. Count three spaces to the right on the x-axis and then two spaces up on the y-axis to show how you determine the location. Write (3, 2) on the board to show how the location can be expressed in short form.

  4. 4

    Use the analogy that you walk down the corridor and then up the stairs when you’re using coordinates, so the first number is for the x-axis and the second is the y-axis. Plot a new point anywhere on the board and ask for its position to check the students' understanding.

  5. 5

    Create a new grid which includes negative numbers and positive numbers on the both the x and y axes. This will be in the shape of a “+” sign. Teach them the term “origin,” which refers to the (0, 0) point. Explain that the graphs work in the same way with negative numbers, except that the numbers move either to the left (x-axis) or below (y-axis) the point of origin. Plot some example locations including negative numbers to test the students’ understanding.

  6. 6

    Ask the students to draw two grids which extend from (5, 5) to (-5, -5), and to work in pairs. To play the game, the students can’t see one another’s grids, so suggest that they use text books or exercise books to shield their sheets from their partner. Tell the class that they each get seven “boats,” two with two points, three points and four points and one with five points. Ask them to plot the positions of their boats anywhere on the grid, with the caveat that they can’t place the boats diagonally.

  7. 7

    Explain that they should take turns taking “shots” at their opponent’s boats, telling their partner the coordinates of each attempt. Their partner responds either “hit” or “miss” and the shooter marks either an “o” (hit) or an “x” (miss) in the relevant position on their spare grid. If the student’s boat is hit – they can mark the location with an “x,” remembering that every point has to be hit before the boat sinks. If you get a hit, you have another shot, and the first one to destroy all of their opponent’s boats wins.

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