Day 86: Student Response

Yesterday I wrote about how one period set down their cellphones for calculators. After thinking about the reasons for this, it is pretty clear that they had a lot more practice with calculators and were more comfortable with that device (I introduced calculators first).

Regardless, we still talked in each period about which method they preferred. Here is a quick list of their perspectives on why they picked up a calculator instead.

  • Didn’t know we could use Desmos
  • Didn’t want to get the app then delete it later 😦
  • More precise instructions with calculator
  • Steep learning curve on Desmos (not sure if there are tutorials on iOS?)
  • Phone (Not app) is too slow
  • Can’t use phones on exams

I am biased and hands down prefer Desmos over any other device/method. Across all my classes, Desmos was the preferred method by students as well.

That last point on the list is a tough one for me, there have been issues in the past with students (not this group) sending out pictures of their tests. I allow full cellphone use in my classroom (calculators and apps) with the exception of concept tests, and most students do not abuse those privileges. My biggest concern however, is that there are other teachers in the building who expect students to be quick on graphing calculators and only that method, no exceptions.

It feel like I am torn between making math easier for my students and setting them up for success in future classes. A little bit of both is probably the answer here.


Day 85: Desmos + Grocery Lines

In Algebra, I gave students the option of using Desmos or a graphing calculator to find lines of best fit. I went over examples of both then dove into Dan’s Grocery Line activity.


I started by asking students which line they would pick, a little over half in each period said the left. I gave them about half of the data Dan provided (I did this last year also and there were some issues with data overload, but that was by hand) and let them loose.

Something interesting happened.

Most of my students set their cellphones aside and used graphing calculators. I am not sure why (I will report back tomorrow). My prediction is we have had quite a bit of practice creating scatter plots on them and students are more comfortable with calculators.

We talked about what the slope, intercept, and r-value meant, and also possible reasons why data is so inconsistent. They were hooked on this after this picture!

Day 45: Candy Bag + Des-man

Last year I used a modified version of an opener I picked up at a workshop for Halloween. It went great in all my classes. This year it totally flopped and didn’t have much depth. The fact that this happened is really interesting to me.

I am not sure if it is a difference is between first year Dan and second year or if my students are sharper this year. But either way it is a good lesson to learn that students will be different from year to year and I need to change things up based on those differences.

Anyways, I wanted to still share this activity.

I start by showing students 3 bags, each containing a combination of candy.


I tell them “Ok now I am going to mix up the candy so that each bag is labeled incorrectly”


i.e. the SS bag does not have two packs of Skittles in it and so on…

The question: If you could reach into one bag and pull out a single piece of candy, which bag would you choose?





or KK?


I remind them they can only pull one piece out of one bag. This sorta touches on deductive reasoning. The students who picked up quickly thought of every possible case that could be in each bag and eliminated until they had one case for each bag.

The students who struggled went with a random bag and hoped for the best outcome each time. I think if I use this again next year I need to modify it so it is more of a group thing instead of a whole class + teacher discussion.

In Geometry students went down to the computer lag and worked on Des-man.

I loved the fact that they started Googling how to create different types of graphs. Here are the first three pages of their creations.


I am looking forward to a weekend of recovery and excited to jump into next week! Some awesome activities in the near future, stay tuned!

Day 44: Functions

Today I gave my first work packet… ever.

I have mixed feelings on this and probably won’t do it again. It felt like there was a lot more groaning that usual (which isn’t always a bad thing). But it felt like I was almost punishing students with the amount of repetition that went on from page to page.

I like the packet; it transitions really smoothly into adding values to graphs. I just probably won’t give as much of it next year.I found it floating around the internet last year (I don’t remember the source!) Anways… I am feeling pretty burnt out. I just spent a whole lot of time creating this pumpkin (which was a lot of fun) for my Geometry to see and model off of tomorrow in Des-man.


Day 41: Waterline + Hotel Snap

I have been wanting to try Water Line by Desmos for almost a year. Today was finally the day!

I wasn’t quite sure how much I should pre-load students on graphing functions when going into this… So I didn’t give them any.

We went into the computer lab, I gave them directions how to access the activity and they worked….

For the entire period.

I used by iPad to monitor and help a few struggling students along the way.


But, as the day progressed that happened less and less. I found that the students who were plotting points or had holes in the graph were self correcting. Once they were able to create their own vase and solve others, a majority of the misconceptions and struggles had been sorted out.

By the way… Desmos has an awesome dashboard when you can follow students through the learning process.


Today I was less helpful than most days, which was uncomfortable. There were a few students off task here and there but for the most part all students were engaged. In my opinion it is incredibly important to have days like this; where the teacher steps back and just lets things happen. I am by no means leaving students at this place and moving forward, but allowing students to begin the learning process and come up with their own questions without the direction of a teacher is awesome.

Tomorrow I am bringing up the cupboard for each class and we will discuss difficulties and answer questions, then move onto Dan’s Graphing Stories.

In Geometry students started Fawn’s Hotel Snap. I have no real reason for the timing of this activity (we are in the middle of parallel/perpendicular lines) but I wanted to try it!

I am really interested in how student’s hotels will pan out, every design is different.






The discussions among students were great and they seemed to all be happy with their final designs. More on this tomorrow!