If you know anything about me, you know that I am a Desmos junky. A couple of years ago I had the privileged of being chosen for the first Cohort of Desmos Fellows, and that has truly changed how I teach. One of the most important things I took away from my visit to Desmos HQ was the idea of understanding how Desmos designs their activities. If you are a Desmos user and haven’t read their The Desmos Guide to Building Great (digital) Lessons, you really should. It will give you some great insight into how to implement the activities that Desmos has designed with your classes, and also make you rethink how you design custom activities using Desmos. The following are a couple of highlights for me:
- Incorporate a variety of verbs and nouns – have you ever done a worksheet where you had to solve 30 equations? Why? Wouldn’t it be more useful to estimate a solution, or compare your results with another student. The monotony of doing the same routine many times does not have great results. Also, as we change the math verb, there is the indirect consequence of changing the nouns that go with it.
- Create activities that are easy to start and hard to finish – this has a lot of effects for me as a teacher. When I design custom activities I usually think on this and also the idea of “asking for informal analysis before formal analysis” at the same time. I want the activity to start off by giving every student a chance to start off with confidence in activity to get them “hooked”, but I also want the activity to progress in such a way that we make a “leap” by the end of the activity so students understand how they grew during the activity and they can see what they learned.
- Connect representations – this has been a point of emphasis in my teaching the last couple of years. It is extremely important for students to make the connection between an equation, a table of values representing solutions to that equation, and the graph of the equation. Before being chosen as a Desmos Fellow, I did a really poor job of making these connection, but now it is something I am constantly reinforcing with my students. Also, this is something I think that separate Desmos from other platforms. The ability to see how changing an equation immediately changes a graph, or how.
Desmos continues to be my favorite tool in the math classroom for many reasons. The graphing calculator is the most effective and intuitive one that I have found. Also, the activity site has activities that have allowed me to have high level math conversation, that I previously wanted but could not create. Desmos helps me create discourse in the math classroom, which has lead to more success and understanding for my students.