Assessment Using Desmos

I use Desmos in class on an almost 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.


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  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
  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”


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.

Exploring Convergent and Divergent Geometric Series with Desmos

I could not find a Desmos teacher activity exploration for series, so I made my own.  Everything is better with Desmos!

This activity works best if students are already familiar with geometric sequences and series.  They are really just exploring convergent and divergent.  I instruct them to look up the words convergent and divergent in the dictionary.  I thought knowing these definitions would help it make sense.  I also included a geometric sequence and series link from Math Is Fun at the end.

Desmos Convergent and Divergent Geometric Series Activity.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.53.55 PM


Algebra 2 Transformations Unit, Starring Desmos Teacher Activities

I teach out of the Discovering Algebra Book.  Last year I tried out the order in the book, and it was disastrous.  The book introduces a new parent graph with each transformation. That did not go well with my students.  It was confusion city.  This year, I went back to what I know.  I taught parent graphs first, then transformations.  Finally, they learned how to write equations given the graph with dilations.  Whew.

Glenn’s convinced me to use the “transformation form” (AKA h,k form) last year in Geometry.  That was a great start with my students in Algebra 2, as we were able to use it right away starting with linears.  I can’t tell you how many problems using the transformation form solves, and how relieved kids eventually are, not to be married to the y-interecept.  Many times, they aren’t given the y-intercept, so y=mx+b is used much more sparingly this year.  It takes my newbies a while, but they get it.  Why kill yourself trying to find where this stinking graph crosses the y-axis when you could put pick ANY point out on the line.

85dda-11850303_153438328335826_1353010797_nThanks to Glenn, I knew to use transformation form from the start.  Thanks to Meg, I had a ton of material to draw from.  And thanks to Desmos, the kids could actually discover transformations ON THEIR OWN.  Disclaimer.  Even with all of this wonderful discovery and conceptual learning, students NEED you to summarize what they have learned with them, and then keep them practicing their new discoveries to cement those discoveries into their brains.  With conceptual learning, many times they are pretty sure they understand what is going on, but they really love when you affirm that.  Also, some kids have a tough time getting there, so a thorough summary at the end helps everyone.

When I taught transformations years ago, I would teach parent graphs, then give them a list of transformation rules to learn and apply.  It was pretty dry and procedural.  Now, I have moved to Desmos, where the students play with graphs to learn what the transformations do without ever seeing any “rules”.  It is awesome, and it sticks.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 8.31.28 PMI still teach parent graphs first and function notation first, along with domain, range and  interval notation.  I actually teach them with the material in the previous chapter so they can know the parent graphs cold before we even start looking at transformations.  After they learn the parent graphs, they study transformations and reflections and then move to dilations.  Oh, those dilations.  My students work with computers and each other for the entire unit.  I also give them handouts so they can take notes and graph as they go along.  I didn’t give them the “transformation rules” until one of the last days.

All of my transformation files are in this box folder.  And the Desmos Teacher Activities are linked below.  You can’t use my activities, but you can’t copy Desmos activities YET for editing.  I am sure that is coming soon.  You will see a vocabulary sheet referred to in the Desmo’s activities.  To start every chapter, I give my students a vocabulary sheet.  They takes notes on it and then most of their important terms are together in the same place.  The vocab sheet is also in the box.

Desmos Teacher Activities – Transformations

  1. Transformations – Shifts and Reflections
  2. Transformations – Dilations
  3. Dilations again (as a short review in-class lesson)
  4. Transformation – Extra practice