How to Graph Exponential Functions by Hand - free cheat sheet and step-by-step video

In this post is a free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet and video that walks students step-by-step through the process of graphing exponential functions by hand. The cheat sheet can be given to students for their algebra notebooks or enlarged into an algebra anchor chart. I have also linked an algebra 1 word wall. In it are visual references for exponential function vocabulary and compound interest vocabulary that can be displayed on a bulletin board during an exponential functions unit.

It's possible that my favorite functions to graph are exponential functions. They look super intimidating at first with their parenthesis and exponents in the air, but by taking them step-by-step, first creating a parent table then shifting this table to find coordinates to graph, they come together before you know it.

Graphing exponentials is one of my favorite things to teach. I say this about most of the topics we cover in the course, but I see so much growth in students during our exponentials unit that it's hard not to love it. At first, students aren't even sure where to start. By the end of the week, they're graphing like champs.

In this post is a video and a free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet. The cheat sheet can be given to students for their notebooks or enlarged to create an anchor chart (link to directions on how to do this easily is below).

In this post is a free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet and video that walks students step-by-step through the process of graphing exponential functions by hand. The cheat sheet can be given to students for their algebra notebooks or enlarged into an algebra anchor chart. I have also linked an algebra 1 word wall. In it are visual references for exponential function vocabulary and compound interest vocabulary that can be displayed on a bulletin board during an exponential functions unit.

Here is a step-by-step video on how to graph exponential functions by hand.


The process of graphing exponential functions follows a pattern no matter what the a value, b value or the x and y shifts are.

Exponential functions parent table follows this pattern every time!

Here is the basic parent table that we can use to graph any exponential function. After identifying the parent function, we get a after plugging in 0 and ab after plugging in 1. Simple!

We then shift this parent table based on the h and k shifts we see in our function.

Graphing exponential functions cheat sheet

Here is the free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet that I referenced in the video and that I give to students as support. It walks student through the steps of graphing and an important reminder that x shifts opposite.

The cheat sheet can be given to students for their notebooks or enlarged into an anchor chart.

Exponential functions reference on an algebra word wall

I added an exponential functions reference to my algebra word wall after a few teachers messaged asking for it. It shows the basic table pattern and the vocabulary associated with these functions.

compound interest reference on an algebra word wall

Because this is a perfect time to connect compound interest, I also added this reference into the algebra word wall. There is also a parent graph reference for exponential functions in my algebra 2 word wall.


Related links:

How to graph radical functions - video and cheat sheet

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