You know you’re a real math teacher nerd when you sign up for an extra day of PD just so you can hang with your friends and learn really, really cool stuff for your classroom. This year ahead of Twitter Math Camp 16, Desmos threw together a one-day event for all of us to become more familiar with the calculator and all of the amazing things it can do.
The day started with breakfast (thanks Desmos!) and then a keynote by Eli sent in from Germany. It was mainly a lot of announcements that I forgot, but it did give the whole thing an air of “This is a big deal.” Then several of the staff members showed us some cool new Desmos features. One of the big ones is accessibility for blind and low-vision studends. Now, using the Accessibility narrator on your computer, Desmos will audibly describe your graphs. It will tell you where points are and where your cursor is on the graph. But a bonus side-effect of this is that now it will also play a tone that correlates to each graph. So for example if you have a parabola it will play a decreasing then increasing tone. Rachel, James, and Chris all worked together to make Desmos play “Mary had a little lamb.” https://www.desmos.com/calculator/xdz17jn1rw This could be such a great STEAM activity, where not only can we use Desmos to make art, we can also use it to make music.
Next we had some smaller break-out sessions where we just got to play with the different features of the calculator. Heather and I sat and learned all about lists [square brackets for the win!], polar graphs, and I even learned how to do shading to show integrals. It was really fun to just spend some time playing with the features in a big group and showing off the crazy things that we made (Heather made a particularly awesome Polar graph). It really is such a powerful little system and the staff deserves a medal for making it all free. One weird perk of the day was that the graph I submitted for my Desmos fellowship application was included in the “Desmos Potluck” slides, which won’t mean anything to anyone not at the conference but I was pretty proud of/embarrassed by.
We then had lunch (thanks again Desmos!) and a keynote from Sara VanDerWerf encouraging us to be “evangelists” for things that are important to us. For example, she said we should get out and show students, parents, and teachers all the ways that Desmos is amazing and useful. I really enjoyed the talk, and now I want a sign that says “Desmos Evangelist” for my classroom.
After Sara’s talk, we learned a bit more about Activity Builder. Two major things of note from Dan Meyer and Christopher Danielson:
- Bundles: Desmos has taken a bunch of activities and “bundled” them into topics. So for example https://teacher.desmos.com/quadratic gives you a sequence of tasks that build on each other to help explain different features of quadratic functions and their graphs. So far this looks so convenient and I can’t wait to look into them more as I start teaching Algebra 2 this year.
- Create your own cardsorts and marbleslides: Gotta give Desmos credit, if you complain they listen. They now let you make your own marbleslides and card sorts! To activate the feature, just click on your name in the top right, then go to labs, and enable them. I made my first ever activity with Julie’s help! It was a Visual Patterns card sort. And the whole process made me realize how much more I should have been using Activity Builder this year. It’s so easy and intuitive.
Desmos finished off the day by treating us to a drink at happy hour (They really know how to win over a bunch of math nerds). My favorite part of TMC is always the people, so these nights where we all get to just hang out and talk and build relationships are so important for me. Even though I can get overwhelmed and super-awkward around new people, I still love it and it’s something I always push myself to take the most advantage of.
I have to go now because I have to get breakfast, set-up, and go to the TMC Newbie thing, all in the next 20 minutes. Sorry for no pictures, those take so much damn time.