Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013


Innovative online graphing calculator makes pretty pictures
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • Graphing concentric circles with a simple repeating equation.
  • Students and teachers can adjust graph paper settings or use Projector Mode for in-class demonstrations.
  • Pictures created using linear equations.
  • A software help sheet available on
The easy-to-use interface lets kids jump right in, and the tool gives visual thinkers a better way to understand expressions.
Without significant help, less experienced students might struggle when things gets complicated.
Bottom Line
This elegant math tool makes concepts more concrete, though some kids might need substantial support.
Amanda Finkelberg
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Confident math students will have a blast transforming their understanding of expressions, graphing, and abstract relationships into dynamic and colorful pictures and graphs.


Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Desmos is a great math tool for middle and high school students. However, while kids will appreciate the easy-to-use interface, they'll find little learning support within the site.


Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Kids can find assistance from video tutorials, help sheets, and a form for submitting suggestions to the developers. However, it should be clear that the help is exclusively for the use of the graphing tool, not the concepts behind it.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Desmos could be a decent tool for helping students connect mathematical concepts to concrete, real-world shapes and pictures. Text and video tutorials explain how to make graphs, add tables, graph inequalities, use sliders and restrictions, and understand the Desmos interface, but they don't explain the underlying mathematical concepts. You get no additional help on teaching functions, equations, or graphing concepts. The site would be far more useful if it offered a way for beginners to get their feet wet with tutorials that explained, for example, how to draw a circle using functions.

The Options panel lets you and students toggle labels, grid lines, and axes; control grid size; and customize trig settings and labels. The Projector Mode button makes text larger and more readable for in-class demonstrations.

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What's It Like?

Desmos is an online graphing calculator that encourages kids to practice math skills as well as play with math to express their creativity. Kids enter an unlimited number of mathematical expressions and instantly see results graphed on the page. A variety of colors and features make it possible to turn mathematical graphs into complex and realistic drawings.

The interface is well designed and easy to use (available on the web, iOS, Chrome, and Android). Kids type expressions into the chart-like interface on the left, and corresponding shapes appear automatically on the graph paper to the right. Students and teachers can pick colors for the different expressions to help emphasize the different lines or to draw pictures from various types of functions and equations. Sliders automatically appear for expressions with undefined variables, and tables can easily be added by clicking on the table icon. With a free Desmos account, students and teachers can save graphs to revisit later. Help, Options, Print, and Share (to popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google) are functions easily accessed from buttons within the main screen.

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Is It Good For Learning?

With a wide range of functions and the option to save and share graphs, Desmos is a great example of how new technologies can make math more concrete for kids. Self-identified "math people" will definitely enjoy turning their grasp of the abstract into art, but students who are new to graphing expressions or who already struggle with the concepts will need some structure to make the most of the experience.

Several features make Desmos a standout graphing option for students with varying math skills. Beginners benefit from the ability to use sliders as substitutes for undefined variables. This way, kids can actually watch the graph move and change shape as they click and drag the variable up and down. A feature that may appeal to more advanced users is the ability to graph tables and inequalities. Tables can be pre-populated with expressions or entered manually, and they let students graph groups of numbers at the same time.

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