Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016

Desmos

Elegant graphing calculator and math simulations promote collaboration

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (36 Reviews)
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Pros: Free and easy-to-use tool that gives students a visual way to understand expressions.

Cons: Without significant help, less experienced students might struggle when things gets complicated.

Bottom Line: Innovative calculator and simulations are a standout graphing option for inquiry-driven math.

Teachers can use Desmos to help students connect mathematical concepts to concrete, real-world shapes and pictures. Starting an activity with your students is easy –- simply have the kids enter the activity code into the website.  Prior to assigning an activity, try the student preview. 

Tips for teachers will pop up, giving specific ways you can coach your kids while they're working, and progress can be monitored using the teacher dashboard. Using this information, teachers can work specifically with students one at a time or pause the whole class if most are headed down the wrong path.

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Desmos is a free graphing and teaching tool for math. In addition to plotting equations, classroom activities are available to help students learn about a variety of math concepts. For example, students can learn how to transform periodic functions by trying to slide marbles through points on a graph. Or, they can plug in their own equation and see what kind of graph pops up; sliders allow students to adjust values and see what happens. Users can also click directly on the graph to find the coordinates of points of intersection, maxima, and minima.

Desmos encourages students to practice math skills as well as play with math to express their creativity. Kids can 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 graphs into complex and realistic drawings. With a free Desmos account, students and teachers can save graphs to revisit later. 

Desmos takes an inquiry approach to learning math. Students manipulate different parts of an equation to change the shape of a graph in an effort to meet a goal, such as sliding a marble through stars. Perseverance is encouraged since kids can adjust and try again if the graph doesn't look quite right. Other tools like ExploreLearning Gizmos also let kids manipulate graphs by changing the equation, but Desmos empowers students to collaborate with each other. Students can ask each other questions and try out challenges created by their peers.

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.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students will have a blast transforming their understanding of expressions into dynamic and colorful pictures and graphs. The easy-to-use interface lets kids jump right in.

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

Students learn by doing and instantly see changes to their graphs as they manipulate values. The activities allow students to play and help them figure out how functions are graphed.

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

Teachers and students are provided with clear directions and tips along the way. Teachers can also track individual student’s graphs as they're working.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 36 reviews) (36 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Christine M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Money Well Saved
This tool is a life saver when students can't get a graphing calculator at home. It gives all students access to the graphing calculator tool without forcing families to spend money. Desmos is good for all levels of learners as it is pretty straight forward once you find the function you are looking for. There is very little reading necessary, even with the examples provided to help guide those struggling, and very few steps to complete a task on the calculator. Teachers and students can also project their phones given the right adaptors so classmates can see their computations, tables, graphs, ect. Unfortunately, it gets challenging for students come assessment time because the steps used to complete tasks on Desmos tend to be different than those of a graphing calculator. State assessments do not allow the substitution of apps for graphing calculators at this point. Even still, it allows for students to focus more on interpretation of math concepts. Lastly, this app, like the graphing calculator, doesn't correct or give feedback to students. It simply computes and/or shows what the student has typed.
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