Monday, November 9, 2015

Reflections on Desmos Activity - Piecewise Functions

I'm finding that just about every activity I've ever done over the years is adaptable to and even improved by the Desmos Activity Builder. It's getting to the point where I'm making those instead of doing other things that are part of my actual job, like correcting,'s become a sort of guilty pleasure.

Here's the link to my latest activity:

A few reflections, some of which are based on those I've read in these posts from others.

Practical stuff:

1.Since you can't hide the equations from the students, and since those equations would be the answers I wanted them to find, I put the folder containing those waaaayyyyy down so that it would be unlikely anyone would find it. In case anyone did scroll down to line 34 for no reason other than to waste time, I rewarded them with Dan Meyer's "Nothing to see here" as a title for it. Which one kid did, and he now thinks I'm hilarious.

"That's cute Miss."
2. Echoing what Bob Lochel said here, keep the questions efficient. I put too many questions all in the same question slide. I need to exert some self-control there.


I took heed of Shelley Carranza's great post, specifically the part about pacing - letting students have time to explore, but then bringing them together for some explicit instruction before they continue. Once I saw that everyone was at slide 3 (because that's one of the things you CAN see with this tool!), I brought everyone back to slide 2 to read everyone else's answers/comments. I didn't spend a lot of time, just enough to use the "without lifting your pencil" idea to introduce the word "continuous" at this point, and to point out that something can be discontinuous but still a function. There were some other things that their comments made me want to discuss, but I knew I was going to followup next day, so I left them for next day.


I'd love to read more from others about this. Maybe if the activity is designed well enough, followup isn't an issue. Maybe my activities are too long? At any rate, the things I was concerned about were:
1. mining their comments
2. giving the answers 
3. showcasing their work.
To do this, I took screenshots of all the slides, annotated them, and made a powerpoint with those for next day.

1. Mining their comments: For the comments I saw during the activity that I really wanted to address but decided to leave until next day, here's what one of those slides looked like:

I tweaked Fawn Nguyen's use of colour-coding highlighter pens - instead of using it for assessment of student work, I used it to group their comments. I used the orange to reinforce the meaning of "continuous", the blue and green ones to discuss their "I wonder"s and my "hmmmm"s (things I wanted to address/clarify/straighten out), and I got them to answer some of the questions that had been raised. I know this has a lot of potential, but I felt like I was doing way too much talking while going through these slides.

2. Some slides had definite right answers I wanted everyone to know, so here's what that looked like:
It was also an opportunity to repeat how to specify the domain using Desmos.

3. Next slides showed everyone's custom-designed piecewise functions. Many had already tweeted theirs out, but I wanted to make sure everyone saw everyone's, and to get reactions in real time. 

You can see more of them on Twitter using the #piecewisefn hastag. Enjoy!

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