Posted in Math II, Quadratics

My undying love for Desmos

For the past two years, I’ve been out of the classroom working as the high school math specialist for my district, so I’ve been totally jealous of everyone using Desmos classroom activities with students. I’ve presented trainings on how to use Desmos classroom activities and Activity Builder; I use the Desmos app on my phone every day; I bug my teachers to use Desmos at every opportunity; I am convinced it’s the most powerful math learning tool there is; I just haven’t gotten to use it with my own students … Until now. And it was every bit as glorious as I thought it would be.

First up: Marbleslides Parabolas. I have never seen students so intent on a problem in math class before. I mean, I know the students find me FASCINATING and everything, but seriously, the amount of learning going on in the room was amazing. I started taking pictures and they didn’t even notice! I set students up in pairs on chrome books and let them go. I was a little afraid that students would start changing numbers randomly without paying attention to the cause and effect, but from every pair I heard some version of “change that number so we can move it over to the left.”

Only a couple of sticking points: I know it shouldn’t, but it still surprises me that students weren’t willing to just hit the “Launch” button and watch what happened; they were trying to get each graph perfect before launching. I need to work on growth mindset with this group. This population struggles with the need to look “smart” in front of their classmates and aren’t willing to put themselves out there if it means being wrong. Additionally some groups got hung up on the domain; they wanted to “move the parabola to the right more” when they really meant that they wanted to change the domain. It took a lot of questioning to coach them to see how the domain restrictions were affecting the graph.

Next day, we followed up with another Desmos activity, Quadratic Transformations, that I borrowed generously from Mary Bourassa‘s Quadratic Transformations part 1 and part 2. Basically I loved her activities and wanted to condense them down to one day to solidify what we had learned from Marbleslides the day before. Students were engaged and thinking deeply, and they were able to apply what they learned to graphing and writing equations in vertex form the following day.

As a teacher, I never sit still while students are working (actually u have trouble sitting still no matter what… ADHD anyone?). I love hearing students’ conversations, seeing what they’re doing, and challenging their thinking (read: bothering them). So I walked around the classroom as they worked and didn’t really take advantage of the teacher dashboard. I think that’s going to take me some time to get used to. Maybe if I accessed the teacher dashboard on my iPad, I could still walk around the room and feel comfortable doing so. Does anyone have any tips for using the teacher dashboard effectively?

I’m looking forward to my next Desmos activities; I have two planned for next month: Building Polynomials #1 and Roots of Quadratic Functions: Looking for Special Cases.

I love my husband. I love my two daughters. I love my friends and my colleagues and my students. And I love Desmos.

2 thoughts on “My undying love for Desmos

  1. I keep a screen from the dashboard projected (in “student preview” most of the time), and carry a wireless mouse around with me so I can change the screen from anywhere. Most of the time, I’ll lag it just behind the middle of the room, and try to find those students who are behind that screen (using the progress meters on the left) to bring them up to speed.
    When a screen comes up that involves students submitting answers, I’ll take a moment to hide the projection and read them to myself. I’ll then use that information to call out things I think everyone should be aware of, or encourage people to return to the screen and refine their answers; at some point we will officially discuss the question and / or I will project the full list of responses. I noticed you’re a fan of the “Submit to Teacher” option — those questions are then the perfect opportunity for you to project everyone’s answer, since the students will not have seen each others’ thoughts before you bring it up.
    For overlays, I’ll start it as a student preview, then switch to thumbnails once responses start coming in, then finally project the overlay when I’m ready to start making comments about trends — whether that be comments to individual groups or comments I want the full class to pause and hear.


  2. Thanks for the feedback! I love the idea of carrying the wireless mouse around – I will try that (as soon as I buy a wireless mouse). I tried carrying around my tablet, but it was a little bulkier than I would have liked; the wireless mouse sounds like a great solution to that problem.
    I did like the tablet for seeing where the top of the class was, to see if they were rushing through or really spending quality time on each page, without showing the entire class. I wonder if there is a good way to get the best of both worlds.


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