Desmos activities are a great way to get students engaged in mathematics. They can be used for a variety of purposes, from reinforcing basic skills to exploring more advanced concepts. They can be adapted to any level in any class. For beginning students, you can use some basic activities that reinforce vocabulary and focus on key concepts. For more advanced students, you can use extension activities.
Benefits of Using Desmos Activities
For the teacher, you can edit the activities and delete any slides your students are not ready for yet. It is easy to do, and since you copy the activity first before deleting slides or editing any of the directions, you can always go back to the original activity if you change your mind about the edits.
Desmos activities are also a great way to get students working together. By collaborating on an activity, students can learn from each other and develop their mathematical thinking. As students are working, the teacher can display the answers to certain questions for the class. You can use the anonymize button so individual student names are replaced with famous mathematicians.
In this matching activity, I could follow which students had finished, which had not started and which seemed to be stuck. The blue cards represented the matching pairs while the orange cards showed those cards which were not matched correctly.
Other activities which ask for responses and explanations can be shared with students so the teacher can show examples of good responses. Again, the names are not displayed. As mentioned above, the student names are replaced with famous mathematicians.
If you’re looking for some great Desmos activities, you can find a variety of them online. There are tons of video tutorials available that can help you get started. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even create your own activities. Recently I created one that was surprisingly simple to make and great practice for the students. Imagine my surprise when every single student was able to enthusiastically complete it during class.
My Favorite Desmos Activities
There’s no shortage of great Desmos activities out there. But which ones are your favorites? Here are some of my top picks and why:
Properties Card Sort
Number Properties Card Sort activity is a great activity to have students sort the different examples of properties. I especially like that it has a “bogus” category for a card that is wrong. It not only reviews the properties, but asks students to think of common errors and write an additional example.
Modeling with Parabolas
Will it Hit the Hoop: This is an activity that students use to model with parabolas. Its an introduction to the graphs of quadratic equations. It even includes videos of someone trying to sink a shot with different parabola shapes and asks student to predict the outcome.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two Truths and a Lie Activity is fun. This one is statements about parabolas and once the first slide is done (as an introduction) and discussed, students are asked to write their own questions about parabolas using two truths and a lie.
4. The Area of a Triangle activity is a fun way to practice calculating area.
Transformers is an activity that introduces students to the vocabulary of transformations: spin, turn, etc. It does this by asking students to create a shape and then that shape is rotated and students are asked to describe it. Then the shape is dilated (again with a video). Third transformation is a sequence of dilation and translation.
These types of activities help develop student vocabulary. The slides can be adapted to share with the class. This would make a great discussion as vocabulary and definitions are refined.
Modeling Card Sort
Modeling Cart Sort Activity: This is an introduction to the different types of functions that would be used to model. This would make an excellent activity to help students understand the differences between functions, and good conversations from each of the scenarios.
7. The Midpoint Formula Activity is a great way to review the midpoint formula.
Equations of Circle Matching Cards
My recent activity “Equations of Circles Card Sort”. I have always loved matching card activities and this one is 2 slides of matching cards. The first slide asks students to match a card with a center and radius to the equation. The other matching card slides gives a graph of a circle and students match the equation.
I was not intending to use this activity as anything other than practice with writing equations of circles, but other teachers saw it and it got shared quickly. I had given an exit ticket the day before and most students were still struggling. The day after the Desmos activity, the new exit ticket showed mastery. Was it the activity? Or something in the water?
While matching card activities are my favorite, Desmos has so much more to offer than that. It has always been an outstanding graphing program and calculator. You can add a variety of elements on any slide–directions, notes, graphs, questions, multiple-choice questions, checkboxes, an ordered list, table, and text.
Next post I will show how to adapt a Desmos activity as well as how to create a Desmos Matching Card Activity. Until then, drop a comment if you have questions or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.