Introduction to Desmos Webinar: A Review

Having completed my A Level maths in 1989 it was a bit of a revelation when I was introduced to Desmos during the MMU Maths Enhancement course I took before I started my PGCE. During my A Level days the class teacher would choose ‘volunteers’ to come to the front of the class and draw lines on the board - I used to cringe if I heard my name. I didn’t always get things right and I don’t think I learned much from those sessions! If only we’d had Desmos to be able to see how lines can change. 

The recent session ‘Introduction to using Desmos for Teaching Mathematics’ given by Tom Button and the Maths Scholarships showed how Desmos can be used to enhance our lessons, both as a stand-alone tool, and for lessons that can be given to whole classes, a feature which might unfortunately become more important once again in these COVID times.

We looked at how to use a sliding scale to explore the effect of changing the intercept and gradient of a line and had a go at some of the tasks and games, such as the ‘marbleslide’ that can be used in lessons. There are a number of collections of resources available that are ready to use, in particular A Level, GCSE and KS3 resources selected by the MEI will be really useful for my teaching. One great feature is that lesson screens can be released incrementally so that the pace of the lesson can be controlled.

Armed with the information that I learned in the session, I decided that I would aim to use Desmos this week in my Year 10 lessons. We are currently looking at linear equations and their parallel and perpendicular lines, and I felt that Desmos would be a useful tool that I could use to demonstrate how the position of lines can be changed by varying the gradient and the y intercept of the equation.

In the first lesson I put a link to Desmos in my presentation, plotted a line y = 2x + 3 and then used the slider function to replace 3 with c. This showed how by changing c, the intercept of the line with y also changed. I then used Desmos to demonstrate answers to the questions given by pupils as answers to the worksheet. From this they could easily see if their answers were right, and also how to correct them if they were wrong. In the next lesson we moved on to perpendicular lines. We had already learned that the negative reciprocal of m gives the gradient of the perpendicular. This time I asked for suggestions as to what any perpendicular line might look like if we know the gradient and plotted them on the screen.

I think Desmos is a really powerful tool for visualising and I am looking forward to trying out more of its functionality. My next step with Desmos will be to book the IT suite and use it for at least one of the GCSE lessons with Year 10 in the New Year.

Ali Berry

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You can find Tom Button on Twitter as @Mathstechnology and MEI at @MEIMaths

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