by Margie Lam
Encouraging math exploration, and discovering how math is relevant to real world applications, Desmos offers exciting options for learning various math concepts. Even more amazing is that Desmos is free! All you need for an account is to provide an email address or sign-in with your google account, then agree to the privacy agreement and you will be set up immediately. There are four tools available for exploration: the graphing calculator, the scientific calculator, the geometry tool, and the four function calculator.
The HTML5 Graphing calculator, desmos.com/calculator, is the original design from Desmos and is an excellent instructional tool for teachers. The graphing calculator has several templates available to build from or the ability to create your own equations in a unique and organized manner. Teachers can develop a lesson on a particular math concept, add functions, images, and even animate on the graph using sliders.
The graph settings allow for improved presentation capabilities and are accessible for those students who are blind or visually impaired. Teachers can embed or share their creations with students who can then plot more data, change equation values, add variables and integrate more advanced functions including derivatives, integrals, regressions, statistics, trigonometry, etc.. I particularly liked how students can manipulate, experiment and explore graphs, data, and equations at their own-pace in a dynamic way. Should anyone become overwhelmed in self-exploration there are help features with guided walk-throughs and videos to support learners.
The Geometry tool, desmos.com/geometry, is an exciting development from Desmos where students can explore points, lines, geometric shapes and their transformations in a 2D free-design space. The tool is very easy-to-use with simple creation icons, drag and drop features and standard functions such as undo, delete and save. Students can create and discover from scratch at their own pace, or teachers can share an example they created and ask students to explore further. The remaining tools: four functions, desmos.com/fourfunction, and scientific calculators, desmos.com/scientific, are very easy to use with no-sign required.
Perhaps the most engaging and useful aspect of Desmos is the classroom activities that have been developed with curriculum expectations and real-world applications in mind. At teacher.desmos.com, there are so many different activities related to various themes to choose from. Activities explore a mathematical concept and typically include a real-world application. Each activity is organized by theme and provides an estimated work timeframe, indicators for compatibility to mobile, tablet and laptop, summary of activity, teacher guide, french translation, accessibility features and student previews.
Using an activity is extremely easy, you simply click the create class code button, then review teacher dashboard and a window appears which you can copy and share with students. Students will access the activity at student.desmos.com where they need to enter the class code. The teacher can launch the activity synchronously with students where desmos provides facilitation support and a dashboard that summarizes individual and class data or send to students for asynchronous assignments. An amazing feature is the automated feedback provided to students as they work through the activity – this not only provides constructive, on-going and meaningful feedback to students but also highlights student responses for teachers in a dashboard summary – no marking required!
Should educators not find an activity that suits their purposes, they can always create their own with the activity builder. This step-by-step guide allows teachers to create and organize their own activities with graph, table, media and sketch components, as well as notes, input and choice features and finally engaging options for marbling activities.
As a teacher, I appreciate the prepared classroom activities with dashboard and automatic student feedback, reducing planning and marking time. I am even more impressed with the graphing and geometry calculators that provide options for student exploration at their own pace and at anytime – ideal for any online learning situation! Desmos does an excellent job supporting teachers and students using their tools by providing many guiding videos and documentation in a clear and organized fashion on learn.desmos.com. I strongly recommend visiting desmos and exploring math in fun and engaging ways!