A handout from the Online Information Series
Copyright (c) 2002, Jolene M. Morris, All Rights Reserved

Graphing Equations using Microsoft Word

In UoPhx Math 208 and 209, you will be asked to graph linear and quadratic equations. Because we don't accept handwritten work, you will need to graph those equations using Word or Excel. This handout will explain how to graph linear and quadratic equations using Word.

Working with Graphics in Word

Before you can understand how to graph equations in Word, you should understand some preliminary concepts such as the Picture Toolbar, the Drawing Toolbar, selecting graphic elements, wrapping, grouping, and ordering.

The Picture Toolbar

When you insert a picture into Word, you can modify and move that picture using the Picture Toolbar. The Picture Toolbar usually appears automatically when you insert a picture. If not, right click on the picture and choose "Picture Toolbar," or use the VIEW menu to choose TOOLBARS > PICTURE.

The Drawing Toolbar

To add lines and other graphing features in Word, you must use the Drawing Toolbar. The drawing toolbar is usually visible at the bottom of the screen. If not, use the VIEW menu to choose TOOLBARS > DRAWING.

Selecting a Graphic Element

When you want to modify or move a graphic element in Word, you must first select it. Select a picture or a drawing element by clicking on it. You will see eight handles (tiny circles or squares) at each corner and each side's midpoint of the graphic. If you want to select more than one graphic at a time, select one, hold down the SHIFT or the CTRL key, select another and another.

Setting Text Wrapping

When you INSERT a picture, it is inserted on the same layer as the text, and it is connected to the closest text. To have the most control over a picture, you want it to be a floating graphic, which means it is independent of the text and is on its own layer (floating above the text). Select the picture and notice the eight handles. If the handles are black squares, the picture is on the text layer and needs to be changed to floating. If the handles are white squares or circles, the picture is floating. To change a text-layer graphic to floating, click the doggie on the Picture Toolbar and select 'tight.' Remember the saying: Choose tight to get white (that kind of rhymes). Once a graphic is floating, you can move it and edit it using the drawing toolbar.

Ordering Graphic Elements

When you have several graphics moved on top of each other, you may want to re-order the elements so the ones on the bottom layers are seen better. Or you may want to move an element from the top to the bottom layer so only portions of it are visible. To change the order of floating graphics, select the graphic you want to re-order. Then on the Drawing Toolbar, select DRAW > ORDER and choose the desired positioning.

Grouping Graphic Elements

Each time you create a new graphic element or floating graphic, it goes on its own layer and is independent of other graphics on the page. Before you save graphics that are layered on top of each other, you want to group all the graphics into one graphic. If you don't group graphics, they may move slightly when you copy and paste the graphic to Outlook Express. To group multiple graphics, select all the graphics (click on each one while you are holding down the SHIFT or CTRL key). Then use the Drawing Toolbar to select DRAW > GROUP. Any time you want to ungroup the elements so you can edit them again, you can always use the Drawing Toolbar to DRAW > UNGROUP.

Snap to Grid

On each Word screen, there is an invisible grid to which all graphic elements try to align themselves. You may try to move a point on a number line or a parabola on a Cartesian coordinate system only to be frustrated that the object won't move as you would like. When this happens, you can turn off the grid (on the Drawing Toolbar, select DRAW > GRID and uncheck the box for "Snap to Grid"). You can temporarily override the grid settings by holding down the ALT key as you drag or position a graphic element.

Drawing a Cartesian Coordinate System (Grid)

You can draw a Cartesian coordinate system using Word, but I found it far easier to simply insert a picture of a coordinate system that has already been created. As such, here is a grid that I created in Word. To save this grid on your hard drive for later pasting into Word, right click on the picture (Internet Explorer) and choose "Save Picture As..."


Drawing a Line on the Grid

Now let's suppose you want to draw a line on the grid, a line which passes through points (3, 3) and (-2, -4).

  1. Open Word.
  2. Using the INSERT > PICTURE > FROM FILE menu options, insert a copy of the grid above.
  3. On the Drawing Toolbar, select AUTOSHAPES > LINES > DOUBLE ARROW
  4. Click (but do not let up on the mouse button) at exactly (-2, -4), then drag up to exactly (3, 3) and let go of the mouse button.
  5. When you release the mouse button, you will see a line going from (-2, -4) to (3, 3) with white handles at each end of the line. Hold down the SHIFT key and drag the line from (-2, -4) straight out to the edge of the grid. With the SHIFT key held down, the line will extend in a straight line even if you don't move your mouse too straight.
  6. Now, do the same with the line that ends at (3, 3): Hold down the SHIFT key and drag the line from (3, 3) straight out to the edge of the grid.
  7. If desired, change the order of the graphics, the thickness of the line, the color of the line, or the style of the line (solid or dashed).
  8. Group the line and the coordinate grid (see instructions on grouping above).


Drawing a Linear Inequality on the Grid

After you have drawn a line on the coordinate grid, if that line represents an inequality, you need to do a little more work:

  1. If the line represents a simple less than or greater than rather than less than or equal to or greater than or equal to, the line should not be a solid line--it should be dashed. Use the Drawing Toolbar to change the style of the line.
  2. Next, you must shade the coordinate grid. Do the usual mathematics of checking one point not on the line to determine if the shading should be to the left or right of the line.
  3. Choose a right triangle from the AutoShapes menu (Drawing Toolbar > AUTOSHAPES > BASIC SHAPES > RIGHT TRIANGLE) and draw it in the area that needs to be shaded.
  4. You may have to use DRAW > ROTATE > FLIP LEFT to orient the triangle properly.
  5. Stretch the handles so the triangle aligns with the line and covers the area of the coordinate grid.
  6. Remove the line around the triangle (on the Drawing Toolbar, use the line color tool and choose None for color).
  7. Set the Fill Color and the semi-transparency (on the Drawing Toolbar, select the fill color tool and select "More Fill Colors." From the color menu, choose any color you like. At the bottom of that same color menu, check the box for Semi-transparent if you are using Word 97 or 2000 or slide the transparency indicator to approximately 75% if you are using Word 2002/XP).
  8. Group the line, coordinate grid, and shading (see instructions on grouping above).

Drawing a Quadratic on the Grid

Drawing a quadratic (parabola) on a grid is about the same as drawing a line. For a parabola, you will use the Curve Tool instead of the Double Arrow tool. First determine three points on the parabola: The vertex and one point on each "leg" of the parabola. If you do not know the vertex, you will need a half dozen or more points (or use Excel instead of Word to graph your equation).

  1. Open Word.
  2. Using the INSERT > PICTURE > FROM FILE menu options, insert a copy of the grid above.
  3. On the Drawing Toolbar, select AUTOSHAPES > LINES > CURVE
  4. Click at the first point (on one "leg" of the parabola), move to the vertex and click there, click the point (on the other "leg" of the parabola), and visually extend the last leg of the parabola to the edge of the coordinate grid. Double click on this final point.
  5. You can extend one of the "legs" of the parabola if you hold down the SHIFT key and drag the line in the direction of the parabola. You may need to rotate, stretch, or shrink the parabola to get it to coincide with all three points.
  6. If desired, change the order of the graphics, the thickness of the line, the color of the line, or the style of the line (solid or dashed).
  7. Group the parabola and the coordinate grid (see instructions on grouping above).


Enhancing Your Graphs with Callouts

You may want to enhance your graphs with callouts to label points, lines, equations, etc. Use the Drawing Toolbar and select AUTOSHAPES > CALLOUTS. You may place text in the callouts. Be sure to group the callouts with the rest of the graphic.

Inserting Your Word Document with Graphics into Outlook Express

I create all my math lectures, quizzes, and solution keys in Word using EE and Drawing Toolbar graphs. I save the document as a regular Word document so the graphics are embedded into the document, but you could also save it as a Web page. Then (and this is the trick), keep the saved Word document open (or open it up again using Word--not Internet Explorer), then select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C) and paste (Ctrl-V) it into the body of an Outlook Express message. If you don't keep your Word document open, all the links to the objects and graphics are lost and your graphics will be missing. Instead of a nice mathematical expression, you will see a box with a red 'X' in it:    In addition, if you try to copy and paste from an Outlook Express message back into Word or into another Outlook Express message, you will see the box with a red 'X' in it because there are no links to the original graphics. Always be sure to save your original Word document in case you want to change it at a later date.

Be sure your Outlook Express is set to send pictures with the messages (TOOLS > OPTIONS > SEND Tab, then click on the HTML button in the News Sending Format section)

In both Word 2000 and Word 2002 (XP), you may need to turn off VML and CSS (Word's Tools > Options > General Tab > Web Options button). Thanks to Ceal Craig for discovering this.

If you are using Word 2000, consider getting the Office 2000 HTML Filter (http://office.microsoft.com/downloads/2000/Msohtmf2.aspx). Also be sure you have the latest updates to Office & Word 2000.

If you experience problems with a simple cut and paste (graphics aren't appearing), try this longer method which always works:

  1. Create the assignment in Word and save it as a Word DOC file.
  2. Do a FILE > SAVE AS> and select the File Type of Web Page (HTML).
  3. Close Word (do not keep open the file as instructed above).
  4. Open Outlook Express.
  5. Click the down arrow next to the NEW POST button: 
  6. From the drop-down list, choose "Select Stationery."
  7. Browse to where you save the file as a Web page (HTML).
  8. Select the filename and click OK.
  9. Add a Subject line.

  10. Move your automatic signature, if necessary.

  11. Click "Send."


Copyright (c) 2002, Jolene M. Morris, All Rights Reserved