Step by Step
Teacher: Landon A. Brown, II

Overview: This math activity can serve as a writing prompt for students to express their personal feelings and attitudes about a significant place in their community.


  • Pen/Pencil
  • Butchel Paper
  • Ruler or Centimeter grid paper
  • Scissors
  • Computer time for Word Processor (if available)
  • Markers
  • Calculator
  • Masking Tape or Mounting Tape

Time: Approximately 3 hours.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. The day before you would like to implement the lesson, tell students to think about a place of significance to them (e.g. home, church, school, special place, etc.). Inform students to try to think of a place that has a set of steps for participation in this activity.

  2. Students may use a ruler or centimeter grid paper to find the "rise" and "run" of the set of steps within the significant place they have chosen. The "rise" is how much the stairs go up each step and the "run" is how much the stairs go across each step. See diagram below:

  1. Students should bring in the two measurements (rise and run) using centimeters.

  2. Students will reconstruct a set of three steps from their significant place using butchel paper. This paper may be any color except black so students can write a reflection on their recreation. Using the measurements, students will use a ruler and a pencil to trace their set of three steps and cut them out.

  3. In whole class discussion, students should explore the steps they have recreated. Students can compare and contrast steps (e.g. a set of steps from the basement versus a set of steps from a school or church, etc.). During the discussion, the instructor can introduce the math term "slope." The slope is calculated using a formula. Students can use their calculators and calculate the slope by dividing the "rise" by the "run." Students can round to the nearest hundredth (ex. 0.4567 = 0.46).

  4. The teacher can go more in depth as needed to talk about the slope of a line on a graph. The slope tells us how much the line goes up and across for each individual increment (just like a set of steps).

  5. Students have discovered a basic concept of slope and can use the recreation as a writing prompt. Each student has recreated a set of steps from a significant place. Inform the students to write a reflection (in the form of a journal entry, poem, or short story) regarding this significant place. The reflection should express the personal feelings and attitudes associated with the place. The final, neat copy should be written on the recreation using markers.

  6. Optional: Along with the reflection students may want to write the formula for finding the slope and write their calculation on their recreation as well.

  7. Using masking tape or mounting tape students (with help from the teacher) should post the recreations with the written reflections around the room or in a hallway (gallery style).

  8. In whole group discussion, students can share where the set of steps came from, read their reflections aloud, and state why the significant place is of importance to them and/or their community.


This activity reiterates the importance of "real-world" applications and connections and curriculum integration as suggested by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. There are 3 types of evaluation:


The student will be able to use a ruler (or centimeter grid paper) to measure the rise and run of a set of steps in centimeters.

Given the rise and run of a particular set of steps, the student will be able to calculate the slope and round to the nearest hundredths place.


The student will be able to recreate 3 steps using the measurements gathered from a particular place of significance using butchel paper.


The student will be able to write a personal reflection (in the form of a poem, journal entry, or short story) about the place of significance expressing personal attitudes and/or feeling associated with the place.

The student will read the reflection aloud in class to a group of peers explaining why the place is of importance to them and/or their community.


This lesson is modified from an activity introduced at the Algebra Institute held by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Atlanta, Georgia, June 2001.



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