This is a lesson that I learned in Algebra for All Year 1, to teach exponential functions.  I used this in my   Algebra I classroom. The concept is modeled after the theme of the movie, Pay It Forward.  Students really enjoyed this activity and I use it in the section to introduce exponential functions.  There is another attachment that goes with this lesson.  If you choose to use this activity, please comment, I would love to hear your feedback!  Thanks!

Tags: exponential_function, exponential_growth, introduction_to_exponential_growth, pay_it_forward

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Thank you for sharing this lesson!  I remember reading the book several years ago. 

How many of your students have seen the movie or read the book? 

I would like to see a copy of the additional attachment.

What a great way to apply real-world problem solving into the abstract concepts of exponential functions.  I would love to see the additional attachment, and I certainly plan on trying this in my classroom.... exponentials are coming up very quickly in the future!

I love intertwining a movie or video in a math class, it’s so unexpected.  I have not seen “Pay It Forward”, but I am willing to try the lesson out with my students based on your success and students’ enjoyment.  Is the book an “enjoyable” read?  I would also like to see the additional attachment.  Thank you for sharing.

I found a good website that has clips of movies with math in it. Here is the link for the Pay it Forward piece. Could I also get the attachment for this lesson. Great idea, can't wait to use it.  Thanks

Thanks for sharing the clip.

This site is great.  If you are looking for some trig ideas, be sure to view the GI Joe clip about "spherical trig."  Clip uses 3D projection to show angles being labeled with Greek letters.  Again, great site!

Hi.  Thanks for sharing.  I haven't seen the movie, but I viewed the clip that Jeanine posted.  This looks like a great opportunity to teach students about the value of doing good deeds for others while teaching them about exponents.  This looks like a great lesson, and I would like to try it with my students.  I would also like see the additional attachment.

Thanks for the lesson! I had to modify it just a bit for my special ed population by moving the book lecture to another day.


Emily, good set up for this problem. Was the lesson for one class period?  Your lesson plan supports mathematical discourse.  Did the class discourse meet your expectations?  Had your students had any previous work with exponential tables and graphs? I am hoping to use this activity in my class.  Thanks.
Looks like a great activity...I would love to see the other attachment!
Thank you everyone for all of your feedback! For students who never saw the movie, I did show the clip at the end of the class period before as a "Teaser" to the lesson. To be honest, I tried to allow the students to come up with their own descriptions of the situation...such as "wow, you can help a lot of people very quickly!". Then, I took their words "increase very quickly" and started interjecting the vocab term exponential growth into the conversation. Thinking back, I'm not sure if this helped very much, but I tried to do something new!
In terms of mathematical discourse in the classroom, this activity was wonderful! I gave each student a white board and they were allowed to draw, model and calculate their theories to share with the class. My whiteboards have a coordinate grid built in, so it was nice to see some students actually graphed their proposed exponential function and shared it with the group. Now, I wouldn't expect the typical Algebra student to know how to do this. The kids that attempted this graph were my Honors Algebra students; however, I was pleased to see that students understood the different variables in regards to the situation.
Thanks for posting the link to watch the clips! Its great because YouTube is now blocked in my building. It won't let me post the attachment. I'm going to figure it out and write again!
Thanks for sharing this lesson!    I love the idea that it is modeled after the movie and is a real attention grabber to start off our study of exponential functions.   It even shows how math can be used for humanitarian purposes to better the world!   I plan to follow up with an example of a fractal tree which pictures the growth (of 3^x) with branches coming out of the tree. I would love to receive the additional attachment that goes with this lesson - thank you!


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