Parabolas Lesson 9 (Teachers)

Deriving the Vertex Form of the Equation of a Parabola

Sasha and Keoni develop the vertex form of the equation of a parabola as y = (x–h)2/(4p) + k where the (h,k) is the vertex and p the distance from the vertex to the focus.

Episode 1: Making Sense

Sasha and Keoni examine the different equations they derived for parabolas with a p-value of 3 and a vertex not at the origin. By noticing patterns between the location of the vertex and the equation for the parabola, they make a prediction for the general equation of a parabola with a vertex at (h, k) and an unknown p-value.

Episode 2: Exploring

Keoni and Sasha use the Pythagorean Theorem and the definition of a parabola to derive an equation of parabola with a p-value of 5 and a vertex at (9, 13).

Episode 3: Making Sense

Keoni and Sasha use the applet to explore the graphs of parabolas with a vertex at (9, 13) and an unknown p-value. Sasha and Keoni determine how to represent the coordinates of the focus and the equation of the directrix when p can take on any value.

Episode 4: Exploring

Sasha and Keoni extend their work from the last episode to derive the equation of a family of parabolas that have a vertex at (9, 13).

Episode 5: Reflecting

Sasha and Keoni look back on their work with a parabola with a p-value of 5 and a vertex of (9, 13). By reflecting on their work and the equation y = (x – 9)2/(4p) + 13, they see 13 their graph.

Episode 6: Making Sense

Sasha and Keoni build on what they have learned in the previous episodes to begin to develop the general equation for any parabola with vertex (h, k) and the distance p from the vertex to the focus.

Episode 7: Exploring

In the last episode Sasha and Keoni determined the distances of the sides of a right triangle on a general parabola with vertex (h, k) and distance p from the vertex to the focus. Next they derive the equation for the parabola by substituting those distances into the Pythagorean Theorem.

Mathematics in this Lesson

Targeted Understandings

This lesson can help students:

1. Derive the vertex form of the equation of a parabola by using the method developed in previous lessons (which involves the definition of a parabola and the Pythagorean theorem), but generalizing from working with particular vertices to an unknown vertex (h,k) and generalizing from a specific distance from the vertex to the focus to an unknown p-value.

2. Interpret algebraic expressions involving parameters (x – h, y – k , and y – k – p) as distances on a coordinate grid.

3. Conceive of algebraic expressions, such as x – h, as both a single entity and as a process of subtracting the value of one variable from the value of another.

Common Core Math Standards

CCSS.M.HSG.GPE.A.2. Derive the equation of a parabola given a focus and directrix.

In this lesson, Sasha and Keoni build upon the method that they developed in Lessons 3 and 4 of using the geometric definition of a parabola and the Pythagorean theorem to derive the equations for particular parabolas with vertex at (0,0). They generalized this method in Lesson 5 for a family of parabolas with vertex at the origin but an unknown distance between the vertex and focus (the p-value). In Lesson 8, they generalized the method to parabolas with a specific non-origin vertex. Finally, in this lesson, they derive the vertex form for a parabola by using parameters (h,k) for the vertex and an unknown p-value.

CCSS.M.HSA.CED.A.2. Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.

The students build equations in two variables for different parabolas that capture a relationship between quantities. They represent these relationships on a coordinate grid system.

CCSS.M.HSA.SSE.A.1.B. Interpret complicated expressions by viewing one or more of their parts as a single entity.

On a parabola with general vertex (h, k) and unknown p-value, Sasha and Keoni express the distance from a general point (x, y) to its directrix as y – k + p. They conceive of this distance as a single entity, which they locate on the graph. They are also able to describe and locate the distances represented by parts of the expression: y, k, p, and y – k.

Common Core Math Practices

CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

According to the Common Core’s description of Math Practice 2, mathematically proficient students are able to “decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and …manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own” and to “contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved.” In Episode 7, Sasha and Keoni use the Pythagorean theorem to set up the equation for a given parabola as ((y–k)–p)2 + (x–h)2 = ((y–k)–p)2 and then reason abstractly by performing appropriate algebraic transformations to arrive at the equation y = (x–h)2/(4p) + K. However, they also reason quantitatively in Episode 6 by describing each term that they substituted into the Pythagorean theorem (namely, x – h, y – k + p, and y – k – p) as distances on the graph.