Introduction to Parabolas with the Puzzle Maker


Lisa Castaneda, Math Teacher

School / Organization, City and State / Province
Shoreline, WA

Grade Level
8 or 9

Common Core Standards Met

  • Construct and compare linear, quadratic, and exponential models and solve problems
  • F-LE.1. Distinguish between situations that can be modeled with linear functions and with exponential functions
  • Analyze functions using different representations
  • F-IF.7. Graph functions expressed symbolically and show key features of the graph, by hand in simple cases and using technology for more complicated cases
  • Graph linear and quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima

Time Needed
One class period.


  • What is a parabola and where might we see one?
  • Students will be able to explain how a quadratic function differs from a linear function
  • Students will be able to identify and explain key vocabulary associated with parabolas
  • Students will be able to demonstrate how to find a minimum and maximum vertex

The purpose of this lesson is to get students thinking about the difference between linear and quadratic functions. The beauty of the Puzzle maker in this lesson is that students get to “experience” the parabolic motion they design. The lesson begins with an investigation of things both linear and quadratic in nature within the Puzzle Maker. Students then experiment with the aerial faith plates to manipulate the vertex of the parabola and try to find different ways to represent parabolic motion. This lesson serves as a great intro to parabolas before students begin graphing y = ax2.


  • Parabola – the U-shaped, curved graph that is the result of graphing a quadratic function
  • Axis of symmetry – the line that divides the parabola into two identical halves
  • Vertex – the highest or lowest points on a parabola
  • Minimum – If the parabola opens upward, the vertex is at this point, the lowest point
  • Maximum – If the parabola opens downward, the vertex is at this point, the highest point

Teacher Materials Needed

  • If possible, a computer that will allow you to project the Puzzle Maker for class discussion purposes

Student Materials Needed

  • The Puzzle Makers
  • Graph paper and pencil or graphing calculator

Lesson Plan
Download Introduction to Parabolas with the Puzzle Maker