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Graphs and Ellipses
This lesson provides an introduction (or refresher) of the concept of graphs in Cartesian coordinates, starting with graphs of a straight line and a simple parabola. It is part of a high school course on astronomy, Newtonian mechanics and spaceflight. The implicit relationship x2+y2 = R2 for a circle is given, and from that the Cartesian equation of an ellipse is developed. Students will learn or re-acquire the use of graphs in Cartesian coordinates, become acquainted with linear graphs, the parabola and the rectangular hyperbola and also learn to prepare tables of paired values for plotting a line. Students will also learn about the Cartesian equation of an ellipse, with a worked example and the historical definition of the ellipse.
Intended for grade levels:
  • High (9-12)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Lesson plan
  • Mathematics
Technical requirements:
No specific technical requirements, just a browser required
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
May be used non-commercially as long as credit is given to the author.
DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-005-163
Educational standards:
  • National Science Education Standards (NSES):
    • 9-12:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Change, constancy, and measurement
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
        • Systems, order, and organization
      • A - Science as inquiry:
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
      • G - History and nature of science:
        • Nature of scientific knowledge
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Author: Dr David P. Stern
Goddard Space Flight Center