Episode 5 Supports

  • Episode Description

    Making Sense: Sasha and Keoni use “the special points” on the three parabolas to generate another explanation for why increasing the p-value results in the parabola getting wider on the coordinate grid.


  • Students’ Conceptual Challenges

    Sasha notices a feature of the special points: the x-value is double the y-value. When asked to explain why that is true, both Keoni and Sasha pause [1:57].


    • Keoni returns the definition of the parabola to attend to the distances of the special point from the focus and directrix. Both Sasha and Keoni attend to the features of the coordinate grid as well as to how one assigns coordinates to a point on the parabola. They mark up the coordinate grid to show how the x-value is equivalent to twice the y-value [3:14-3:26].

  • Focus Questions

    For use in a classroom, pause the video and ask these questions:


    1. [Pause video at 2:16]. What is the scale of the coordinate grid? How do you know?


    2. [Pause video at 5:59]. 1. What happens to the special point when the x-value doubles from p = 1 to p= 2?


  • Supporting Dialogue

    Invite students to engage in a pair-share activity as they respond to each question:


    • With your partner, predict the coordinates for the “special point” of a parabola for different p-values: p = 2, 4, or 5. How do you know those are the coordinates? Prepare your answers to share with the whole class.

    • With your partner, write down your conjecture of what happens to the width of the parabola on the coordinate grid as the p-value increases. Prepare to share your conjecture with the whole class.
  • Math Extensions

    1. Show that the point  is on the parabola using both geometric and algebraic reasoning.









Mathematics in this Lesson

Lesson Description

Targeted Understanding

CC Math Standards

CC Math Practices

Lesson Description


Sasha and Keoni use algebraic and geometric thinking to form three arguments that justify why a parabola gets wider on the coordinate grid as the p-value in y = x2/(4p) increases.

Targeted Understandings


This lesson can help students:


  • Understand why, when the p-value in y =  x2/(4p) increases the parabolas appear to be getting wider on the same coordinate grid, by advancing three different arguments:

  • When x is a fixed value (e.g., when x = 2 and y = 1/p, then as p increases, y decreases, which means the parabola will get wider.
  • When y is a fixed value (e.g., when y = 4 and 4 = x2/(4p) or 4√p = x), then as p increases, the square root of p increases. This means that 4√p, which is x, also increases. Thus, as p increases, so does x, which means the parabola will get wider.
  • A “special point” for a parabola (i.e., a point on the parabola that is aligned horizontally with the focus) can be expressed in general as (2p, p). Thus, as p increases, the special point for the parabola will be growing faster outward than it grows in the upward direction. This means the parabolas will appear to get wider on the same coordinate grid.

Common Core Math Standards

CCSS.M.HSF.IF.C.9: Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).

Sasha and Keoni first notice key features of the graphs of three quadratic functions (all with a vertex at the origin but with different p-values). For example, they notice that when the x-value is the same for all three functions (e.g., when x = 2), then the y-values of the points decrease as the distance between the vertex and focus (the p-value) increases. They observe visually on the graph how decreasing the y-value but keeping the x-value constant forces the parabola to become wider. They then link this observation to the algebraic expression for the parabolas. By fixing the x-value as 2, the equation y = x2/(4p) becomes y = 4/(4p), which is y = 1/p. Sasha and Keoni can see algebraically that as p increases, y decreases. Comparing the algebraic and graphical representations of these quadratic functions provides a way to help understand why increasing the p-value in y =  x2/(4p)  means the parabolas will appear to be getting wider on the same coordinate grid.

Common Core Math Practices


CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7. Look for and make use of structure.

In this lesson, Sasha and Keoni construct three different viable arguments to explain why  increasing the p-value in y = x2/(4p) means the parabolas will appear to be getting wider on the same coordinate grid. Each argument relies on a consideration of different features of the graphs: (a) fixing the x-value in Episodes 2-3; (b) fixing the y-value in Episode 4; and (c) considering special points in Episodes 5-6. Noticing a relationship is much easier than creating an argument to explain why the relationship holds! To accomplish the latter, Sasha and Keoni express their ideas to each other [Episode 2, 2:33 – 3:42], even when it’s difficult to do so. They also justify their conclusions [Episode 2, 5:02 – 5:33] and respond to each others’ explanations [Episode 6, 1:26 – 1:56].