Exponential v. Linear Function Card Sort

It has been a very long time since my last post.  I am currently in full swing with my graduate school course at Boise State (Masters in Educational Technology) and I am in the process of becoming ADEPT certified.  I have not had the type of time that I had last year to write my posts about what I am doing in my classroom.  I have missed almost all of the twitter chats that I used to join and I must admit that it is taking a toll on me.  I am very well connected at my school, but am I missing the great collaboration that I had with some many great educators last year.  My hope is to finish this school year strong.

The Big Idea

Today I want to share an activity that I did a few weeks ago to help my students compare and identify exponential and linear functions.  I want to make sure that my students are able to create multiple representations of a function such as: tables, graphs, equations, and a scenario. I expect that students can move between the different representations and make connections.

The Finer Points (Details)

Students will sort tables, graphs, equations and scenarios into groups: linear or exponential.  Once all of the cards are sorted students will then match 4 cards together that represent the same function.  Each group will consist of a scenario, table, equation, and graph.  Every table does not include a value when x is 0, which forces students to find the 0.  In the future I would like to use a few blank cards so that students will need to create the missing scenario, graph, table or equation.IMG_0523.JPG

Students will divide a separate sheet of paper in half (hotdog style) with a title for “Linear Functions” on the left and a title for “Exponential Functions” on the right.  Students will notice that they cards use the same numbers for the linear and exponential scenarios.  The purpose of this is to help students see the difference side-by-side.  Students should glue the similar groups next to each other.IMG_0524[1].JPG

After everything is glued on the paper students will then use colored pencils or highlighters to “connect” and identify the y-intercept and the growth/decay factor or slope in each representation.  This will help students to transition from each representation.  Then I had students underline key words in the scenario that helped them to determine if the scenario was linear or exponential.


Overall, this activity went very well in my class (Intermediate Algebra, Algebra 1, pt 2).  Many of my students started to make some great connections and see the difference between a linear and exponential function.  We did have some bumps in the road with students who struggled to first sort the cards as linear or exponential.  When this arose I tried to get these students to start connection the scenarios, tables, equations, and graphs together so that they would have more evidence and connections to determine if the function was linear or exponential.

I would love to hear any and all feedback and comments on this activity.  I am always looking to improve on what I am doing in the classroom.

Here is a pdf version of this activity Sorting Cards


2 thoughts on “Exponential v. Linear Function Card Sort

  1. Hi Kristin, Dan here from Desmos. We’ll be releasing a card sort authoring tool in the near future. We’d like to release it preloaded with some useful card sorts and we thought the card sort you posted here fit the bill. Would you let us consider re-creating it in our software and releasing it when we launch? Some conditions:

    We won’t sell your card sort.
    We will release it for free use and modification by teachers.
    We’ll credit you.

    Let me know what you think!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Dan, it is such an honor! I love doing card sort activities with my students and have been looking for a software that would make this easier. I would love to share this card sort activity and the idea behind it with the Desmos team. For my personal records can you just have an e-mail sent to me with the terms. My email is


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