Parabolas Lesson Plan

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

In this lesson plan, students will learn about the three most common forms of parabolic equations (standard, intercept and vertex) through discussion, quizzes, active games and development of original visual presentations.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the three main forms of a parabolic equation
  • Demonstrate a deep understanding of one form of parabolic equation
  • Use concepts of vertex, axis of symmetry and intercept as they relate to parabolas


1 -2 Hours

Curriculum Standards


Distinguish between situations that can be modeled with linear functions and with exponential functions.


Derive the equation of a parabola given a focus and directrix.


Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.


  • Transcripts of the video lesson Parabolas in Standard, Intercept, and Vertex Form and hard copies of the lesson quiz
  • Audio/visual equipment (if needed for projection to a large group)
  • Index cards showing:
    • Parabola equations in intercept form, vertex form and standard form (5 of each)
    • Non-parabolic equations (5)
    • The terms standard, vertex, non-parabolic and intercept (5 of each)
  • Poster paper
  • Art supplies

Warm Up

  • Begin the lesson by asking if students remember the definitions of these common terms:
    • Parabola
    • Vertex
    • Intercept
    • Axis of symmetry
  • Give the answers to the above if students are unable to answer.
  • Draw a parabola on the board or poster paper.
  • Ask students to label the parabola's vertex, intercept and axis of symmetry.
  • Ask if students know what the equation of a parabola looks like.
  • Tell your students that parabolas can be written in three different formats: standard, intercept and vertex. This lesson will cover those forms.


  • Hand out hard transcripts of the video lesson Parabolas in Standard, Intercept, and Vertex Form.
  • Begin the video lesson.
  • Pause the video at time marker 2:42 and check to see if there are any questions thus far.
  • Write a parabolic equation (in random form) on the board or poster paper and ask students to re-write the equation in standard form. Ask:
    • Is the graph of this parabola going to be concave up or down?
    • What is the y-intercept?
    • What is the axis of symmetry?
  • Ask students to draw a rough sketch of the parabola based on what has been learned from the standard form equation only. Discuss the results:
    • Is there enough information to draw an accurate graph?
  • Continue the video pausing at time marker 4:22.
  • Using the same equation, ask students to change it into intercept form. Ask:
    • Is it still obvious which way the graph will curve?
    • What are the x intercepts of this graph?
    • Does this information help us draw a more accurate graph?
  • Allow a volunteer to add the x intercepts to the previous graph and redraw the parabolic sketch if necessary.
  • Continue the video pausing at time marker 5:22.
  • Re-write the original equation in the vertex form (If your students are advanced enough to be able to do this, allow them to do it on their own). Ask:
    • Why are the h and k so important?
    • Do we have enough to draw a very accurate model now?
  • Allow a student to add the h and k information to the graph on the board or poster paper.
  • Finish the video.
  • Give students a final chance to ask questions before the quiz.
  • Hand out the lesson quiz. Go over each question and answer after students have completed it.


Activity 1 - Whole-Group Game


  • Index cards


  • Students will need space to move around for this game.

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