Linear Equations anchored in the Man In Motion Tour

Of the four instructional frameworks we explored in module B, I chose to look at anchored instruction where students are required to generate sub-questions based on a broader question anchored in a real-world situation.

The school I teach at is named after Rick Hansen; a man who has raised many millions of dollars in the name of spinal cord research.  When referring to Rick Hansen, his Man In Motion tour often comes up as it was the worldwide launch of his attempt to create awareness around spinal cord injury.  My lesson will develop a driving question around Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion Tour and the curriculum requirements around Cartesian coordinates and linear equations.

Driving Question: How can we explain Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion Tour using math?

Step 1:

Students are given a chance to brainstorm what this question means to them.  There is no context to this problem other than the math we have already covered in the class thus far – linear equations have not been studied yet.  Once they have had a few minutes to brainstorm, they add their ideas to a shared Google Doc.  Students are aware of the requirements of online collaboration and the behavior and accountability that comes with that.  Discuss as a class.

Step 2:

Introduce to students the route data that has been acquired from the Rick Hansen School program (in spreadsheet form) of daily mileage traveled, dates traveled and each city that Rick stayed overnight.  This brings a new dynamic to the problem as students are now given some context.  Ask students to revisit their contributions from the previous step and update their position.

Step 3:

Take students outside to the soccer field where ‘treasure’ has been previously placed throughout the field.  In pairs, have students brainstorm effective ways draw a map for their peer to reach this treasure.  The aim is to have students begin to work with the x/y plane and Cartesian coordinates.  Guide students and ask probing questions as required.

Step 4:

Explore the concept of constant speed and how it can be illustrated by a linear equation.

As a class, explore the PhET simulation:

And speak about how any point on that line (position) can be expressed with some value of x or y.  Allow students a chance to play around with the slope and y-intercept.  Provide a list of questions students need to answer to better familiarize themselves with the y=mx+b form.

Step 5:

Assign students a country (each country has about 10 stops) that Rick visited during his Man In Motion tour and task students with using linear equations to try and explain his position at any point during a given day.  They can assume that he was travelling for eight hours per day.

This should be enough information for them to find his average speed and come up with a linear equation for each day.  Students will find that some days were longer than others in regards to distance – ask them why they think this is the case?  They could look at elevation changes on certain days etc.


I would love feedback on potential pitfalls or areas of development you may see.



  1. Hi Baljeet

    I like the fact that you tied in a bit of Canadian history, math, and PE all together.

    I wonder if in Step 1 — the Google docs portion is the best option. If students can read previous comments before they post theirs…they might not post theirs or change it because they saw a better answer. The reason I say that I found in my own online classes, if I allow the students to read previous students posts…then they do not respond fully (or copy other students). So now in the discussions…they need to post their ideas first then they will see all the others. I am not sure if that is possible in Google Docs.

    A good next step might be when you assign countries…see if there are teachers in that country that would like to pair up with you.

    To keep the conversation going — make sure to respond to at least two other learners as well respond to all learners that respond to your own post. When responding to other learners, expand the discussion and please use references to support your ideas/thesis/concepts etc.


  2. Hey Baljeet,

    I love that you’ve included spreadsheets, especially to graph real motion. What a great idea. Sometimes and oldie is a goodie, and we make the learning of spreadsheet basics a key feature of all of our programming from Grade 8 upward. I also admire that you took on mathematics. I am suffering a crisis where I feel that only about 20% of the prescribed topics are authentically relevant in a PBL environment. Generally, the math is too easy (ratios), to hard (differential equations), or irrelevant (factoring polynomials). Here is my top list of things I actually use:

    Linear equations (as best fit equations for real data)
    Quadratic equations (for projectile motion)
    Trigonometry (for static equilibrium and multiple force resolution, and modeling rotations)
    Exponentials and Logs (for modeling decays and growth curves, like cooling, and determining power relations through Log-Log graphs)
    Estimation and Dimensional Analysis (for checking if an idea makes sense, and gauging what is needed for a project)

    It’s something to work with, but it leaves a lot of stuff (like point, slope form graphing) out in the wind.

    It’s been great learning with and from you in another course. Shame that we didn’t have an opportunity to work in a group again! Congrats on finishing the program and good luck in the future!


    1. Thanks for your feedback Mike. It has been a pleasure working with you in both courses. I’m sure our paths will cross again!

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