Monday, August 11, 2014

The wonder of Desmos

My calculus students were reviewing graphing concepts today: find the points of intersection, find the intercepts, transformations on parent graphs.  We were using the graphing calculators and I was making them explain to me how to do each of these processes.  Some of them were feeling quite proud of themselves because they remembered and were able to shout out the steps and buttons that I should push.  Enter Desmos!!  They have never seen this operating platform before.  We have Chromebooks in the class, enough for two people to share.  I started with a "find the intersection points" problem and they were in awe.  Then we moved on to finding all the intercepts.  Excitement continued as some of them were discovering new things about it.  That's what I love, you do the introduction to something on the computer and they RUN with it!  No nudging required!!  Then we went to the transformation with sliders!  Their graphing calculators can't do this!!  They were having SO MUCH FUN!  Some of them zoomed so far out it was as though there were looking at the graph from an airplane at 30,000 feet.  Should I reiterate: their graphing calculators can't do this!!  But when they figured out that you could hit the "play" buttons on the sliders and watch the transformation animate, there were mesmerized!  When I hear "I can't focus because I'm too busy graphing", you know it's a GREAT DAY!  When I made them pick back up their calculator and do it "old school", they grumbled that using that piece of technology "sucked".  I had to agree!  And I have been the biggest salesman of graphing calculators to my students.  Now I am encouraging someone to step up and manufacture a hand-held Desmos calculator....I think it's been done...called an IPhone or IPad!  But the problem is: they can't use these on the AP test, so we have to keep using the slide rule, er, I mean the graphing calculator!  How long until the world of education (and testing) catches up to the "real world"?  I hope I get to see it!

In AP Stats, I gave the students 10 different data sets.  They had to select 5 and make 1 bar graph, 1 dot plot, 1 pie graph, 1 stem plot and 1 back-to-back stem plot and show me the graphs on their whiteboards.  These were some of their results.  There is so much discussion! I love it!  And students can even spot mistakes in others work on the other side of the room!  Then when I asked them questions like "was there anther data set that could have been used for this type of graph?" and said discuss in your group, they were all on task DOING THAT!!  Can I just say how much I LOVE this new set up?!!  (groups of 4 and vertical whiteboards).  Even though I'm giving them the lesson via video notes as homework, the group work is SO POWERFUL!  It really is like me getting to double my time with my students! And the students are so excited to be a part of this! Why did it take me so long to get to this place?


  1. That's AWESOME. Seeing all of those pictures is totally re-convincing me that I need to find a way to get whiteboards all over my room, which happens to be a computer lab, but I'm sure there is a creative way to do it. By the way I wish you were more enthusiastic about the start of the year ;)

  2. BEST thing I've ever done!! Even if I didn't have any tech. I hope more of my colleagues jump on board with this because it is AWESOME for the kids!