Julie Bensley's Mini-Course: Utilizing Desmos Activity Builder in the Mathematics Classroom

ETAP 623 Fall 2016 Julie Bensley's portfolio page

This course introduction page


Overview and Purpose

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Utilizing Desmos Activity Builder in the Mathematics Classroom is meant to instruct mathematics teachers on how to utilize the graphing calculator found at Desmos.com (also available as an iPad app) along with the Desmos Activity Builder site that allows creation of interactive and inquiry-based learning activities. Graphing calculators have met an important need in teaching important concepts in the math classroom since the early 1990’s. The Desmos graphing calculator and Activity Builder site enables students of all levels and socioeconomic backgrounds to engage in meaningful mathematical activities. Incorporating Desmos activities in the classroom has the ability to enhance the learning of math students by providing visualizations and simulations that allow students to test their own ideas and build connections to new ideas. In this course, participants will answer and reflect on the following questions:

· What is Desmos?

· What are Desmos Activities?

· How can Desmos Activities be utilized in the classroom?

· Where can a teacher find Desmos Activities?

· How can teachers create their own Desmos Activities?

Needs Assessment

New standards in mathematics promote students have a deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics and how they can be applied in the real world. Incorporating various forms of technology is an essential component of building this comprehension. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) holds the position that, “It is essential that teachers and students have regular access to technologies that support and advance mathematical sense making, reasoning, problem solving, and communication. Effective teachers optimize the potential of technology to develop students' understanding, stimulate their interest, and increase their proficiency in mathematics. When teachers use technology strategically, they can provide greater access to mathematics for all students.” (NCTM 2011) Desmos provides teachers will an easily accessible technology that promotes inquiry-based learning to build mathematical understanding in students.

For years, mathematics teachers have integrated the handheld graphing calculators as tools for mathematical modeling. These handheld devices come at a cost that many schools and students cannot afford. Desmos is completely free. It can be accessed online or through a free downloadable app on any device. As Sara Vanderwerf stated on her blog “DESMOS IS A GAME CHANGER. Desmos is an equity and access answer for all our students.” (2015) Desmos is also extremely easy for students and teachers to use. Many students struggle to learn the keystrokes required to operate a handheld graphing calculator requiring instructors to take a great deal of extra time in class to teach calculator skills. In my own experience using Desmos in the classroom, students quickly begin to utilize the tool and are less intimidated by the graphing calculator.

Numerous mathematics teachers who blog about their teaching experiences are boasting the benefits of using Desmos in the classroom. Not only is it free and easy for students to use, the Desmos Activity Builder provides methods for teachers to provide students with inquiry-based lessons while monitoring students’ progress. At a time when educators are seeking methods of formative assessment, Desmos meets that need. “Desmos provides the power to explore these ideas more deeply, apply them in a new way, connect them to new representations, and the whole time, give me a great bird’s-eye view of what students do and don’t understand to drive instruction moving forward.” (Kane, 2015) As students work, the teacher is able to see their progress and individual responses by viewing a dashboard. I have found this component extremely helpful in monitoring students' participation and understanding. Watch this video to get a glimpse of what is possible with Desmos Activity Builder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-onfrIlkqk

Given the wonderful benefits for mathematics teachers and students, it is important to provide teachers the opportunity to learn about Desmos and become educated on how to integrate Desmos into their lessons. I believe this tool has the ability to change mathematics classrooms. This course seeks to inform teachers about Desmos and how to incorporate it into the classroom.

Performance Objectives

By the end of the mini-course,

1. The learners will explain the benefits of utilizing Desmos and Desmos Activity Builder in the mathematics classroom.

2. The learners will demonstrate an understanding of how to use the various tools on the Desmos graphing calculator.

3. The learners will incorporate existing Desmos Activities into mathematics lessons.

4. The learners will build unique Desmos Activities and integrate them into mathematics lessons.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

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Unit 1: Benefits of Utilizing Desmos and Desmos Activity Builder

Ojbective: By the end of unit 1, a participant should be able to explain the benefits that Desmos Graphing Calculator and Desmos Activity Builder brings to the mathematics classroom and how they are changing mathematics teaching.

Unit 2: Incorporating Desmos and Desmos Activities into Mathematics Lessons

Objective: Given a learning standard that includes a graphing component, the participant will be able to locate a Desmos Activity that could be integrated into a lesson the specific standard and then explain how the activity would enhance student learning.

Unit 3: Building Desmos Activities

Objective: Utilizing the Desmos Activity Builder program, the participant will create a Desmos Activity that utilizes the various teaching screens and techniques available on Activity Builder.

Resources and References

B. Lochl. (n.d.) Desmos classroom file cabinet. [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://mathcoachblog.com/desmos-classroom-file-cabinet/

Bourassa, M. M. (2015). Technology corner: Desmos activity builder. Ontario Mathematics Gazette, 54(2), 28-30.

Bourassa, M. M. (2015). Technology corner: PHET interactive simulations and more from desmos. Ontario Mathematics Gazette, 53(3), 7-9.

Bourassa, M. M. (2014). Technology corner: Math munch, daily desmos, and Ontario math link. Ontario Mathematics Gazette, 52(3), 7-8.

D. Kane. (2015, Nov 11) Intellectual need, formative assessment, and desmos activity builder. [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://fivetwelvethirteen.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/intellectual-need-formative-assessment-and-desmos-activity-builder/

Desmos. (2016, July 11) Welcome to desmos activity builder [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-onfrIlkqk

Ebert, D. (2014) Graphing projects with desmos. Mathematics Teacher, 108. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Publications/mathematics-teacher/2014/Vol108/Issue5/Graphing-Projects-with-Desmos/

K. Schwartz. (2016, April 6) Could this digital math tool change instruction for the better? [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/04/06/could-this-digital-math-tool-change-instruction-for-the-better/

L. Wheeler. (2016, Jan 27) My favourite: Desmos! #MTBoS [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://mslwheeler.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/my-favourite-desmos-mtbos/

M. Craig. (2015, Aug 4) Desmos activity builder for function transformation. [Web log comment] Retrieved from: http://www.megcraig.org/2015/08/04/desmos-activity-builder-for-function-transformations/

NCTM (2011) Technology in Teaching and Learning Mathematics. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Technology-in-Teaching-and-Learning-Mathematics/

S. Vanderwerf. (2016, July 28) Evangelizing desmos. [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://saravanderwerf.com/2016/07/28/evangelizing-desmos/

S. Vanderwerf. (2016, April 29) Duluth desmos training. [Web log comment] Retrieved from: https://saravanderwerf.com/2016/04/29/duluth-desmos-training/