You MUST Try Desmos Activity Builder

Desmos Activity Builder is the favorite thing that I use in my classroom.  I use it almost everyday.  I use it for in class lessons, differentiation during class, independent work, homework, and even for assessment.  You need to at LEAST check it out.  Right now.  TODAY!

Desmos Activity Builder will change your teaching life.  It takes your regular lesson and makes it interactive.  It enables the students to actively learn while allowing you to closely monitor that learning in real time.

Imagine one of your Powerpoint or Smartboard lessons.  But now imagine that instead of you going through the slides at the front of the class, the students are going through each slide at their desks, each on their own device.  And, when you ask them to graph something, you can see them all graphing at the same time.  Instead of asking a question to the class, you ask them the question on the same slide as the notes.  They can put in a free-response answer, or a multiple choice answer with explanations.  You can see every students answer in real time.  You can also chose to have all of the students see each others answers.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-10-27-22-amIn Activity Builder, I can have the students work at their own pace, or I can chose teacher paced so I control how they move through the slides.  The thing I love most about Desmos is that I can see the students working in real time.  They have multiple choice slides so I could even give a Desmos Activity Builder quiz if I wanted to!  There are already many pre-made lessons in Desmos Activity Builder, so you don’t even have to make your own!  They even have bundles of lessons for each topic!  Below is an preview of the Desmos Bundle for Linears.

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I did a very brief “Learn Desmos” for my fellow faculty at the beginning of the year.  I modified it so that you could go through it independently and learn all about Activity Builder!  Click here to experience the things you can do with Desmos Activity Builder!

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Resources!

If you have never used Desmos I highly recommend the great tutorials on the Learn Desmos site.  These will walk you through the calculator (great for students) as well as the Activity Builder.

 

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Desmos Tutorials

 

Where to find additional amazing Desmos Activities:

Desmos Teacher Lesson Directory

Desmos Bank

 

 

Also!  If you are new to the Desmos Activity Builder, you should attend the Global Math Webinar this Tuesday at 9pm EST, Diving Into the Desmos Dashboard!

 

 

 

Exams / Testing Using Desmos

I use Desmos in class on a daily basis.  For our midterm, I decided to let my students use Desmos.  As new Algebra learners, many of my students often make small mathematical errors, especially on exams.  My hope was that using Desmos to verify their answers would help them see graphically when they had made an error, and be able to correct it.

How I created it:

I made a traditional exam on paper and then a Desmos Activity builder to go along with it.  I created a “Welcome to the exam” slide with instructions.  I created two slides for each question, one introduction slide and one working slide (usually a graph slide).  I also added “STOP” slides in-between each question to help the students.  Most of the questions were on paper,  then students verified their answers with Desmos.  However, I did have two slides where the graphs were on Desmos, and they had to write the equations of the graphs.  Here is a sample of the slides.

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How I implemented it:

If you have iPads, Desmos has a test mode app you can use.  We are 1-1 so my students did the Desmos part on their computers.  I did not want students having the exam on their computers, or accidentally sharing the exam, so I made sure that they were not signed in to Desmos.  Since we use Desmos frequently, I had to instruct my students to sign out of Desmos after they went student.desmos.com.  I sat behind the students, so I could see all of their screens at the same time to ensure they only were on this screen.  I had them close the window when they were finished.  When they put in the code without signing in, they have to hit, “Join without signing in.”

  1.  Go to student.desmos.com
  2. Sign out of Desmos  screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-7-33-59-pm
  3. Instruct your students to enter the code, and to click on “Continue without signing in.” I had them enter their first and last names. screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-7-38-32-pm
  4. I went around to each computer once they started to verify they were not signed in.  **To do this, at the top right hand side of the page, you should see their name, and then an option to sign in or create an account.  Then you know they aren’t signed in.screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-7-34-59-pm
  5. You can “pause” the activity at the end of the exam so students could not go back to individual screens after the exam. I did not do this, but will in the future. (Thanks John Rowe!)

How I graded it:

I had them put all of their final answers on the test paper.  This way I could grade it like a traditional exam.  I went to Desmos if I had a question about their answers.  For a few students, I was able to give some points back if their Desmos was correct, but they messed up on their test paper. I loved being able to verify their test paper answers on Desmos.  It helped me see what they were thinking and award partial credit where appropriate.

I loved it!

During the exam I kept an eye on the teacher dashboard to see how kids were doing.  I loved seeing kids quietly go, “YES!” and celebrate at their desks when entered their answers in Desmos and it worked.  I also liked using the teacher dashboard to watch the kids work during the exam.  I saw one student enter the incorrect graph, and then see that it was wrong.  They went back to their paper to think and work more, and was able to enter the correct graph the second time.  It was amazing.  The tough part was when students didn’t know how to do the problem, and then their wrong answer was verified on Desmos.  For the future, I really want to try to incorporate Desmos into more assessments, not just midterm exams.

 

What they said:

Most of my students really loved being able to use Desmos.  It was a great reassurance for the majority of the kids.  The last question (if they had time) asked students how they felt about the exam and if they felt Desmos helped.  I loved reading their replies!  My favorite was, “DESMOS WAS A LIFE SAVER”

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Here is the Desmos code if you want to check out the sample Desmos midterm in more detail.

Updated – Great tips from commenters!

For future, just “pause” from the teacher dashboard and that prevents them from accessing it outside of class time. – John Rowe

John Rowe had an excellent suggestion that I had not thought of before!  At the end of the exam, you can hit the PAUSE button so kids will not be able to access the exam later.  Brilliant idea and I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me!

I made shortlinks and printed them on the assessment paper which had the actual questions so being logged in wasn’t as much of an issue.  – John Golden

John Golden had a great idea about using just a Desmos calculator link instead of an activity builder and then giving the students short links on their tests.  I love this idea, especially for shorter assessments.  It is what I was looking for to be able to incorporate Desmos into smaller assessments.

Introduction to Transformations Marbleslides!

I just made my first Marbleslides in Desmos!  It was incredibly easy, and the students said it was a really fun way to learn.

This Marbleslides activity introduces students to transformation form and lets them practice moving graphs around with Marbleslides (SUCCESS!!) using the new parent graphs they just learned.  My students know transformation form with linears, y = a(x – h) + k, but have not moved any other graphs around yet.  (For this activity I used the absolute value, quadratic, square root, and cube root functions.)

I have two goals with Desmos this year.

  1. Shorten my Desmos Activity Builders, so that I have time in class to practice with the students outside of Desmos.
  2. Make worksheets to accompany my Desmos Activity Builders, so the students can have notes to look back on.

I felt this activity accomplished both, and my students really seemed to enjoy it.  I have provided the activity and the worksheet for you to try.  I would love feedback!

Desmos Introduction to Transformations Marbleslides

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