Function, Expression, Equation Poster

The other day, Sarah showed me this tweet, and told me she wanted to make a poster based on it:

She wasn’t sure how she would do it. I tried suggesting an idea I had, but we decided it might be easier if I just made it and let Sarah see what she thought. Turns out that she loved it:

She did get it laminated today, and it looks like this:

What I love about this is the way it demonstrates the differences between functions, expressions and equations, but also shows how there’s a connection between them too. This poster goes well with the set Sarah created about solutions, roots, zeros and x-intercepts; that’s how she’s got them in her room, after all!

Now, the poster doesn’t capture all the particulars of these algebraic tools; it’s just a simple poster showing one example. There were some comments on twitter about the fact this poster doesn’t completely define what a function is, particularly absent a discussion of sets. Also, there was concern that the equation example implies all equations are homogeneous. Both criticisms have an element of truth, but also miss the point of a poster that, by its nature, only has one example. I think posters serve the best as either reminders of topics already discussed or starting points to launch a deeper discussion or investigation. Please, never put a poster on a wall and assume that means you’ve taught a topic. For an example of how I’ve discussed functions before, see these notes that I used in Algebra 2 last year.

Downloads are here.

This one may be a little tricky to put together, so if you want some guidance, keep reading:

  1. Choose your three colors. The effect works best (and helps communicate the idea) if the middle color appears to be a blend of the other two. If you don’t want to think too hard, just use blue-green-yellow like me, but I’d love to see other color combinations too.
  2. Print the first page (function) on the first color (blue, in my case), and the second page (equation) on the last color (yellow).
  3. Print either page on the middle color (green). For this page, you only need the expression rectangle, which appears on both pages. Cut off the rest of the paper.
  4. Stack your three pages with the expression rectangle of each page overlapping, with the middle color on top. Make sure you line up the rectangles as perfectly as you can.

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