Student Created Desmos Projects

This school year I have been participating in a LITE Cohort (Leaders in Instructional Technology Exploration) through my district. This has been a great opportunity to learn about new technologies, connect with other colleagues, and improve my teaching practice by focusing on ways to enhance student engagement.

For our unit on parent functions, I wanted to give students some choice in how they could share what they had learned during our unit of study.  As an avid fan of Desmos, I had already used Polygraph when we were building vocabulary in the quadratics unit.  I also created an Activity Builder for teaching logarithmic and exponential parent functions, and students were very engaged. I decided I would make these two activities an option for the assignment.


Some students chose to create a Polygraph game for their project, and worked either with a partner or a group of three. I provided planning sheets so they could identify what graphs they would want to include, and some students drew them out by hand while others wrote the equations or typed them in a Google doc. I always love to see how differently students process when given the opportunity to choose. I heard a lot of great discussion about creating choices that would allow students to identify graphs based on yes or no questions. Some groups initially created graphs that were too similar, and it was interesting to see how they modified their graphs to provide a variety.

cubicWe played the polygraph games after students had finished the project and the students gave constructive feedback to the creators. One group created one sole graph in a different color than the others, and it was interesting how many “choosers” elected to choose this graph when playing this game. This option was a good choice for students who needed more structure, and many chose to work with a partner (creating one polygraph).


Several students chose to create an Activity Builder and WOW!!!!  The results were just awesome!  Students were incredibly creative, and the discussions were just SO RICH!!!  Some students worked on their planning documents, and then we would conference and you could hear the wheels spinning, “wait, they won’t necessarily know how to do that yet – I need to add an instructional slide” or “Oooh – I could have them show what they know at this point by having them manipulate sliders!”  It was truly one of those teaching moments where you just stand and smile in silence, knowing they are engaged, thinking critically and enjoying playing with math 🙂

Here is an example on Absolute Value Functions:


Here is a second example on Transforming Parabolas:


My takeaways:

  • CHOICE – why, oh why, do I not do more of this?
  • Desmos – I was a little nervous about having students create Polygraph and Activity Builders.  We did this shortly before Desmos updated their terms and conditions, and I’m worried from a standpoint of student privacy that perhaps I will need to rethink this. Since students worked in pairs/groups, there were only a handful created.  It was such a rich experience that I want kids to have the opportunity but need to ask the powers that be at Desmos if it’s something I can allow kids to do.  If not, I could always have them do all of the planning documents and then we could create it together?
  • Understanding – parent function questions were included under a later assessment and the kids knocked it out of the park. Creating their own activity really helped drive home the transformation principals.  Definitely need more student created assessments!




About merryfwilliams

High school math teacher and mom of 3 amazing kids. I have a high maintenance husky and am adding a knitting obsession to the juggling routine. @merryfwilliams on Twitter
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