Unit 3: Building Desmos Activities

Return to Utilizing Desmos Activity Builder in the Mathematics Classroom

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.

Basics of Desmos Activity Builder

When I show my fellow mathematics teachers Desmos Activity Builders, they are eager to try their own ideas. Desmos Activity Builder is a user-friendly web-based program. Some activities can be created in a matter of a few minutes once one has learned the basics of Desmos Activity Builder. After creating an account, one can choose the word Custom on the left side of the screen. After entering a title for the activity, a variety of screens can be added to the activity. View this video to learn some of the basic options that can be added into your Desmos Activity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HToTcxmOHPM

How To Build in Specific Features

Graph Screens

A key element within Desmos is the ability to utilize interactive graph screens. Desmos began with the online graphing calculator and has built on that with the Desmos Activity Builder. As mentioned throughout the course, the graphs screens can allow for inquiry learning through manipulations the constants in the graph. Graph Screens can also act as demonstration for students. More advanced graph screens can assist students in testing their own knowledge. Watch the video here to learn more about creating graph screens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDNz3KAZpDs

Folders and Sliders

When adding graphs screens to the activity, folders and sliders add layers to the activity and provide a method for hiding equations from students. This feature allows for teacher to create a graph and ask students to write an equation to match the given graph. Folders are normally used in the mathematics art projects mentioned in unit 2. Sliders allow for learners to manipulate a value within an equation to discover the impact that value has on the graph itself. I use sliders often when creating inquiry based learning activities. Here is a link to an inquiry based lesson that I created utilizing sliders: https://teacher.desmos.com/activitybuilder/custom/56df867aa74f960e091b2f91 I used this activity on graphing absolute value functions after my algebra students knew how to graph quadratics in vertex form. Learners quickly picked up the rules for graphing absolute values and were able to verify their ideas using the sliders. Here are two video on how to created folders and sliders within the graph screens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD2YiyfOClQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MChp2P0vMA


Card Sort

Desmos recently added a new feature called Card Sort for Activity Builder. Many teachers create their own paper cards for students to match in a classroom setting. Card Sort on Desmos provides the same benefits. Teachers may add words, images, graphs, and mathematical statements for students to group appropriately. Learners may pair graphs with equations or group similar graphs together. Since images may be added, learners may group shapes with like characteristics. Once students are participating in the online activity, the instructor may use the teacher dashboard to view if students have created their groups correctly. Red groups contain at least one incorrect card. Green groups are completely correct. In order to be able to create Card Sorts, a user must utilize the pull down menu under their own name in the upper right hand corner to go to Desmos Labs. Once in labs, the Card Sort box must be checked. Users wishing to create their own Marbleslides need to check the Marbleslides box here as well.


Watch this video to learn more about creating Card Sort Activities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs2HuDl85HM


Polygraph have been mentioned throughout this course. Polygraphs are easy to create. When choosing to create a custom activity, there is an option to create a new polygraph. After giving the activity a title, equations or images may be added. A total of 16 items must be attached to create a set for students from which to choose. The Polygraph activities provide a great opportunity for learners to practice communicating mathematically. Watch this video to see how to create your own polygraph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=961w2y8xiGM


Import an Image

Desmos allows user to add images to their various activities. One of the powerful options is to add an image to a graph screen. Importing a real world image of an object and allowing the students to find an equation to match the shape of the image enables learners to see the importance of mathematics beyond the walls of the math classroom. This video demonstrates how to add an image of a parabola for students to match the equation. It is also a great example of how to use sliders within a graph screen. Click on the link to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L09yzY7S_0


After viewing the various options for activities, discuss the following questions with a partner:

1) In what ways can the Desmos Activities replace or supplement activities that you already integrate into your lessons?

2) What benefits would tying in the Desmos Activities bring for your students and for you, the teacher?

3) Choose a graphing topic that you teach on a regular basis. Create your own Desmos Activity to integrate into your lesson. Share the link and explain how you will use the activity.

Please enter your response into this Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdpBtaUJFUwKX1MgI-vqSFAXDykErsTYn94SZX6JrgDxxNcnQ/viewform You will also be able to read responses from other teachers who have participated.


My hope is that you are inspired to bring the power of Desmos into your classroom. Throughout the course you have seen that Desmos is an amazing free tool that can change the learning of mathematics. Please remember that numerous teachers are adding to the Desmos Activities every day. You can search for activities to use in your own classroom and see what is new by folowing this link: https://teacher.desmos.com/ You have been introduced to many techniques that you can use to build your own activities. The Desmos team is continuing to create even more options. To learn more advanced skill and keep up on the improvements that the Desmos team is bringing to their program, please visit: http://learn.desmos.com/.

Resources and References

Bensley, J. (2016, April) Transforming absolute value functions. Retrieved from https://teacher.desmos.com/activitybuilder/custom/56df867aa74f960e091b2f91

Desmos. (2015, Sept 18) Learn desmos: Folders. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD2YiyfOClQ

Desmos. (2016, Jan 29) CREATE: Desmos activity builder overview. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HToTcxmOHPM

Desmos. (2015, September 4) Learn desmos: Sliders. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MChp2P0vMA

Desmos. (2016, Jan 29) CREATE: Using graph screens in desmos activity builder. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDNz3KAZpDs

Gironda, C. (2016, March 6) Desmos polygraph overview. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=961w2y8xiGM

Hung, R. (2016, July 19) Desmos card sort - 60 second overview. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs2HuDl85HM

MrKline TL (2014, May 29) Importing an image into desmos. [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L09yzY7S_0