Upon meeting the scarecrow in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy asks, “Follow the yellow brick road?…Which way do we go?” The scarecrow replies, “People do go both ways.” Even though he didn’t have a brain, the scarecrow may have known something about absolute value! Absolute value measures the distance from a central point. In our case, that central point is zero.
In the activity, Introduction to Absolute Value, students find the absolute value of positive and negative numbers, as well as simple numeric expressions. They learn that the absolute value of any number is always positive, since distance is always positive. As students progress through the activity, they use ordering and comparisons with absolute values, and interpret real-world situations using absolute values.