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Desmos for Beginners: Favorite 5 Features

Whether we’re teaching virtually or in-person or hybrid this year, one thing is true: We’re all relying on and using technology more than ever in our classrooms now.

Teachers are being bombarded with tech resource after website after new platform over and over and over again. It’s overwhelming. Please hear me when I say.. I DO NOT WANT TO ADD TO YOUR TECH OVERWHELM. You’re welcome to read this post and watch the video with no expectation to use it in your classroom. That’s ok! You’re also welcome to read this post and watch the video and spring into action with a tool that a teacher told me after a recent workshop has, “changed my life.” Whichever teacher boat you’re in, you’re welcome here.

So what’s the “life changing” math tool?

It’s Desmos. And it’s free. And it’ll always be free.

You may know Desmos as the online graphing calculator. But it’s so so SO much more.

At time of posting this blog, I’ve facilitated over 30 virtual workshops on distance learning to over 550 grade 6-12 math teachers and special education teachers since the pandemic began. I’ve demonstrated Desmos math teacher activities in well over 70% of those workshops. In my follow up survey I ask teachers who attend my workshops which strategies they’re most likely to use in their classroom and Desmos is consistently at the top of that list.

I could just write a blog post about how amazing I think Desmos is, but I thought it would be more powerful if I SHOWED you how amazing Desmos is with this video highlighting 5 of my favorite Desmos math activity features.

1. Incredible Teacher Dashboard

The dashboard is by far my favorite feature of desmos. Most importantly, you can see exactly which student is doing what in REAL TIME from one screen! Other favorite features of the dashboard include the pacing feature, anonymize feature, and the pause button to freeze student screens.

2. Social emotional learning checks

Activities like getting to know, check in, understanding all tap into social emotional learning in a math focused way. Love it!

3. Ability to see student work in real time, easily

You need to see it to believe it, make sure you watch the video posted above.

4. Card sorts

Teachers are battling a lot of cheating in this virtual environment. Card sorts make an activity a little more cheat-proof. See how in the video.

5. Student collaboration activities

One of the first Desmos activities I ever used in my own classroom was a Desmos Polygraph activity. In this series of activities students are randomly partnered with another student in class and essentially play “Guess Who?” for math! Think yes/no questions like: Is your slope positive or negative? Is your y-intercept greater than 3? It’s the perfect activity to create a collaborative classroom community AND have fun while doing it!

Additional resources

  1. Find another quick video covering how to assign a desmos activity to your students in this video, How to Use Desmos Teacher Activities.

  2. Check out this blog post, New to Desmos: Start Here, to learn more about (and participate in yourself) the best Desmos activity to start with your students!

  3. Desmos is great for students who struggle, if you have students who struggle with math in your classroom, check out my free guide: 10 powerful and easy math intervention strategies, to access tips and accommodations you can use in your classroom immediately.

Let’s connect!

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