Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 4-6, students use BrainPOP resources (including a free online math game) to explore coordinate grids and planes.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Plot points on a coordinate plane when given a coordinate pair.
  2. Identify coordinate pairs on a coordinate plane.
  3. Identify the four quadrants, the x-axis, the y-axis, and the origin.
  4. Differentiate between x-coordinates and y-coordinates.
  5. Differentiate between negative and positive coordinates on the coordinate plane.
  6. Identify what happens when you increase or decrease the x-coordinate and y-coordinate of a point.
  7. Reflect points across the x-axis and the y-axis.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP and the online game


Coordinate plane, quadrant I, quadrant II, quadrant III, quadrant IV, x-axis, y-axis, origin, point, positive number, negative number, coordinate pair, x-coordinate, y-coordinate, vertical line, horizontal line, increase, decrease, reflect.


Game Over Gopher is a fun, fast-paced game that helps establish the fundamentals of plotting functions on a grid. We recommend using the game to introduce students to the graphing topic or to help them develop fluency with coordinates. The game helps students read coordinate pairs, plot values on a graph, differentiate negative coordinates from positive coordinates, and identify the four quadrants of a coordinate plane.

Familiarize yourself with the basics of game play prior to introducing the game to students. Game Over Gopher is a tower defense game similar to Plants vs Zombies. To defend your prize carrot, you must select various tools to “feed” the space gophers who are trying to eat the carrot. The first few levels of the game are very simple in order to teach the mechanics of game play. You will find numerous visual clues to assist you in recognizing the coordinate plane and guide you in placing points on the plane using the x-coordinate and the y-coordinate. For example, the x-axis and all other cues associated with x-coordinate are red. Everything associated with the y-axis is blue.

As the levels progress, the number of tools available increases, the level of math vocabulary increases, the scale of the grid changes, and you are asked to expand your mastery of the grid by reflecting points across axes. As a break between gopher-feeding sessions, you can play bonus “treasure hunt” levels where you navigate the grid and decipher hints to buried treasure.

Please note that this lesson was intended to be a multi-day lesson spanning several class periods. You can lengthen or shorten the time allotment by providing additional or less time for game play, and by extending or simplifying the follow-up activity. If students play the game over multiple class periods, introduce them to the "cheat" which will allow them to start at the level where they finished the last time they played: press the shift + C keys on the level select screen.

Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from Math Snacks, the game developer's website. Be sure to check out their site for more teacher support resources and additional math games.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display a coordinate grid example for the class to see, but don't tell them what it's called. As a warm up, have students talk with a partner and share what they already know about the grid displayed. You can assess prior knowledge by listening to students' discussions. Are they using key vocabulary terms such as coordinate grids and x and y coordinates? Can they distinguish between the type of information conveyed by the x axis and the information conveyed by the y axis?
  2. Tell students that they will have the opportunity to explore more about coordinate grids through a game called Game Over Gopher. Allow students to play the game independently or in pairs.
  3. After approximately twenty minutes, ask students to pause their game play and reflect on it in a whole class or partner discussion. What do they like about this game? What are some things that make this game challenging? Can anyone give classmates hints about how to play the game? What math do they see in this game so far? What is their favorite tool for feeding the gophers? What do they notice about the x-axis and all of the x-coordinates? (Answer: Red) What do they notice about the y-axis and all of the y-coordinates? (Answer: Blue)
  4. Provide an additional 20 minutes of game play time. If you are not able to provide this time in the same class period, introduce students to the "cheat" which will allow them to start at the level where they finished the last time they played. The cheat for this game is to press the shift + C keys on the level select screen.
  5. Engage students in a follow-up discussion. How does the game get more challenging as they advance levels? What strategies did they use to master each level? You may also want to ask students to explain what is different about the scale for the x-axis and the y-axis in later levels. Are there any hints they can give other students about passing the bonus levels?
  6. Display the BrainPOP Coordinate Plane movie but don't press play. Tell students the movie explains coordinate planes in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Challenge students to work with a partner or group do the same!
  7. Project the Vocabulary words used in the BrainPOP movie and ask students to include those terms in their explanations (as well as any other vocabulary you want them to be familiar with.) Offer students choice in determining how to share their information: they could use an app like Show Me to narrate and draw their coordinate plane explanations. They could also create a video, podcast, reader's theater script, poster (digital or paper) with verbal presentation, and so on.
  8. Provide time for students to create their explanations and present them to the class. Talk about the key information that each group included. You may want students to write those important points down in their math journals or notebooks.
  9. Afterward, play the BrainPOP movie for the class. Compare the information Tim and Moby presented to the information students included in their explanations. Encourage students to reflect in writing on which presentation (from a group or the BrainPOP movie) was most effective in summarizing important information about coordinate grids and planes. If they were teaching this topic to other students, which presentation would they choose?