Free and relatively easy to use, Desmos is an excellent online graphing calculator for students who do not have a handheld device of their own.

Submitted 8 years ago
Jason N.
Jason N.
Moanalua High School
Honolulu HI, US
My Rating

My Take

I am a fan of the TI-Nspire graphing calculator and its computer software equivalent, though I understand the limitations and issues that come with both. While I use my handheld all the time, and do occasionally use the computer software in class, I tend to use Desmos a lot more often. While there is still a learning curve to figuring out some of the features, that learning curve is much less than the TI-Nspire software. I am able to graph different relations and functions without having to navigate menus, and just using my keyboard. Finding zeros and intersections are really easy, though I wish Desmos would display more decimal places. Creating graphs to use on homework assignments and assessments is a lot easier to do with Desmos than with other software, as well—the images come out cleaner, and are relatively easy to crop or edit.

How I Use It

One of the easiest aspects of Desmos to use in the classroom is the slider feature. In the past, I have utilized the slider feature on my handheld TI-Nspire graphing calculators to introduce dilations and translations of different functions, and students usually learn a lot through that. But they would have issues with using the touchpad, or have difficulty with moving through different tabs. If I do the same activity with Desmos, I lose the opportunity for the kids to work individually at their own pace in class, but they gain ease of use and still make the appropriate action-consequence observations. And I provide the URL of the activity, so students can try on their own at home if they still are lost.

The other major way I use Desmos is in assigning a "face project," where students utilize a variety of relations and functions to create the face of a cartoon character. In the past, we've had students do this activity using the TI-Nspire computer software—if they had already bought the handheld, they would have the software. Otherwise, we would instruct them to download the free trial. But there would be issues with having to rewrite conic equations as functions (this was before the OS update that introduced the equations feature), or restricting functions. With Desmos, students don't have to download anything, and they find that the online calculator is easier to use than the handheld or software, once they get past the initial learning curve.

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