Linear functions are very prevalent throughout much of Algebra 1 and a portion of Algebra 2. These algebraic equations model any situation that contains a constant rate of change (also known as the slope of a line). Students sometimes have trouble seeing the pattern that values of a linear function have because their basic arithmetic is so poor, and this where technology can give struggling learners a big boost.
Any Texas Instruments graphing calculator will do for this lesson; however, TI-83 and TI-84 models will work best. These graphing technologies allow students to quickly see what is happening to one value as the other value is either increasing or decreasing. The pattern is sometimes much more difficult to observe when calculating these values the old fashioned way.
For starters, you need to make sure your linear function is in slope-intercept form, that is it needs to be solve for y. Once you solve it for y, simply insert your function in the calculator after you give your TI-84 the Y= command (this button is located in the most upper right location of the calculator). Once you have entered the function in the calculator, you have many options. One of those such options is to see a table of values (often called a t-chart by Algebra teachers) that literally stretches much farther than any high school student will ever need it to. Press the 2nd button, followed by the GRAPH button and the table will now show up on the screen. You have the ability to scroll down which will increase the x-value or scroll up, which decrease the x value. This will allow any student to quickly determine what kind of linear relationship the x and y values have with one another. If the y-value increases as the x-value increases then there is said to be a direct linear relationship. If the opposite occurs, then there is an inverse linear relationship.
There are many other options that you can perform on this linear function that will prove useful in your Algebra class, but the table of values is perhaps the most valuable information that the TI-84 graphing calculator can provide in just a moment of seconds.