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Parabolas Here, Parabolas There! Apply Quadratic Rules to Real-World Parabolas


Computers & Internet, Math  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Parabolas Here, Parabolas There!
By – Patrick Moseley
Primary Subject – Math
Secondary Subject – Computers & Internet
Grade Level – 9-12

Concept/Topic to Teach:

Students will apply quadratic rules to a real-world parabola found outside of the classroom.

Standards Addressed:

  • A2Q01: The student is expected to generate a quadratic function with graph having a given vertex and axis of symmetry, and generate a quadratic function with a graph that contains two or more specified points in the plane.
  • A2Q07: The student is expected to generate the equation of a parabola using given features that may include a vertex, focus, axis of symmetry, direction of opening and focal width in mathematical and real-world problems.
  • A2Q09: The student is expected to give examples showing how extraneous solutions may arise with quadratic equations in real-world problems.

General Goal(s):

Students will apply quadratic rules to a real parabola.

Specific Objectives:

The student will locate a real parabola and determine the vertex, axis of symmetry, and the quadratic function of this parabola.

Required Materials:

  • A PC with Microsoft Photo Story 3, photo editing software, TI student software, and Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • Microphone (attached to PC)
  • TI-nspire CX calculator with navigator
  • Digital Camera (able to connect to PC) (optional)
  • Copyright safe media for student use (music, online photos, etc.)

Anticipatory Set (Lead-In):

  • In previous lessons, students have already been exposed to quadratic functions.
  • The students will go through a quick review to remind them of this fact.
  • Next the students will be shown a real-world clip of a parabola (i.e. Bellagio Water Fountain in Las Vegas, Nevada; The St. Louis Arch; satellite dish; etc.) with desired elements of the upcoming video presentations.

Step-By-Step Procedures:

  1. Students will be assigned into a group (this could be individual, but the teacher may need to allow for extra time).
  2. Students will find a unique real-world parabola (that no other group has – preferably one that doesn’t pop up on a “parabola in real-life” search) (first come – first served).
  3. Students will transfer photo of real-world parabola to TI-nspire CX calculator using TI student software and navigator system.
  4. Student will calculate the vertex, axis of symmetry, and the quadratic equation of their parabola (they will have to determine the grid placement of their parabola).
  5. Students will organize information into a video presentation with the following elements:
    1. What is the parabola and its location.
    2. What is the vertex, axis of symmetry, and quadratic function of this parabola (and are these features actually part of the parabola image).
    3. How did they determine the above parabola parts?
    4. What did they learn from this project.
    5. Good narration.
    6. Appropriate background music (if any).
  6. Students will show presentation to the class.

Plan For Independent Practice:

Students will work together in groups to locate a real-world parabola (either by taking photos and bringing them back to class or through an internet search), calculate the desired structures, and then compile this information into a short video for presentation.


After all presentations are submitted, students will reflect on the application of vertex, axis of symmetry, and quadratic equations on creating real-world structures.

Assessment Based On Objectives:

Students will score each video presentation based on a rubric provided by the teacher.


Student with learning disabilities will be given an extension on completion time and also other extensions based on 504 or other special education documentation.


Gifted student extensions will include:

  • Finding more structures of their parabola (focus, focal width, etc.)
  • Adding “How can knowing the parts of a parabola assist engineers in creating structures?” into their video presentation.
  • Fine tune editing (utilizing more features of Photo Story for example).
  • Assisting students having difficulty (a peer tutoring role).
  • Creating a second video (demonstrating a proof of the topic, for example).

Possible Connections To Other Subjects:

  • Geography
  • Speech
  • English
  • History
  • Science
  • Art

E-Mail Patrick Moseley !

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