Every math concept covered so far can be placed on a coordinate
grid. Standard two-dimensional coordinate grids are set up with
a horizontal x-axis and
a vertical y-axis. The
place where these lines meet is the origin. At the
origin, x = 0 and y = 0. Values
of x left of the y-axis are negative, while
those to the right are positive. Values of y above
the x-axis are positive, while those below it are
Any point can be expressed on the grid using the formula
(x,y), so the origin is always
Point D is at (–2, –2), meaning it’s
two spaces to the left and then two spaces down. Point C is
at (4, 7), so you go four spaces right and then seven spaces up.
Lines appear on grids quite a bit. On a graph, an equation
of a line usually takes the form y = mx + b.
The variables x and y stand for
the (x, y) of any point on the
line, while m is the slope of the
line and b is the y-intercept.
The slope of a line, denoted by the variable m,
is the change in y-values divided by the change
in the x-values of the line. The slope can be determined
from any two points on a line. Take points C (4,
7) and B (0, 5), which are both on line AC.
You can use different points on the same line, like A and B,
but the slope will still be the same:
Viewed from left to right, slopes are positive if the
line is moving upward and negative if the slope heads down. Without
knowing the exact value, you know the slope of line DE
negative. Some people like to remember slope as “rise over run.”
Starting at point A
, if you “rise” one space and then
“run” two spaces over, you find yourself at L
another point on the line with a slope of
The slope of line w is zero, while the
slope of line v is undefined. Plug some points
into the slope formula to see for yourself. Or just take our word
for it. We never lie about slope.
The b in y = mx + b is
called the y-intercept, and it’s the place the
line crosses the y-axis. When a line crosses the y-axis,
the value for x is zero. Watch what happens when x equals
Understanding all the parts of the linear equation y = mx + b (especially slope)
will help you answer many coordinate grid items. But since anything
can be placed on a graph, these items will not be limited to finding the
slope. Suppose you were given the diagram below and then told H is a
point on the line DE:
If H is at (1, –5), how long would line
segment DH be?
First, place H on the grid at (1, –5).
You can see a right triangle with DH as its hypotenuse.
It’s even a 45-45-90 right triangle:
The answer, by the way, is
To find the midpoint of line segment DH,
use the midpoint formula:
There’s nothing wildly exciting about this formula. You
just take the x and y values for
the two endpoints and find the average for each one.