Lesson 4

Introducing Double Number Line Diagrams

Lesson Narrative

This lesson introduces the double number line diagram, a useful, efficient, and sophisticated tool for reasoning about equivalent ratios.

The lines in a double number line diagram are similar to the number lines students have seen in earlier grades in that:

  • Numbers correspond to distances on the line (so that the distance between, say, 0 and 12 is three times the distance between 0 and 4);
  • We can choose what scale to use (i.e., whether each interval represents 1 unit, 2 units, 5 units, etc.);
  • The lines can be extended as needed.

In a double number line diagram we use two parallel number lines—one line for each quantity in the ratio—and choose a scale on each line so equivalent ratios line up vertically.

For example, if the ratio of number of eggs to cups of milk in a recipe is 4 to 1, we can draw a number line for the number of eggs and one for the cups of milk. On the number lines, the quantity of 4 for the number of eggs and the 1 for cups of milk would line up vertically, as would 8 eggs and 2 cups of milk, and so on.

a double number line for eggs: 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and cups of milk: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The pairs \(4:1\) and \(8:2\) are circled.

Because they represent quantities with length on a number line rather than with counts of objects, double number lines are both more abstract and more general than discrete diagrams. Later in this unit, students will learn an even more abstract representation of equivalent ratios—the table of values. Connecting the concrete to the abstract helps students connect quantitative reasoning to abstract reasoning (MP2). Though some activities are designed to hone students’ facility with particular representations, students should continue to have autonomy in choosing representations to solve problems (MP5), as long as they can explain their meaning (MP3).

Learning Goals

Teacher Facing

  • Compare and contrast (orally and in writing) discrete diagrams and double number line diagrams representing the same situation.
  • Explain (orally) how to use a double number line diagram to find equivalent ratios.
  • Label and interpret a double number line diagram that represents a familiar context.

Student Facing

Let’s use number lines to represent equivalent ratios.

Required Materials

Learning Targets

Student Facing

  • I can label a double number line diagram to represent batches of a recipe or color mixture.
  • When I have a double number line that represents a situation, I can explain what it means.

CCSS Standards

Building On


Glossary Entries

  • double number line diagram

    A double number line diagram uses a pair of parallel number lines to represent equivalent ratios. The locations of the tick marks match on both number lines. The tick marks labeled 0 line up, but the other numbers are usually different.

    A double number line for teaspoons of red paint: 0, 3, 6, 9, 12 and teaspoons of yellow paint: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20.

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