Desmos Snowglobes

snowglobeMy Algebra 2 students have been studying function transformations. To give them an opportunity to apply their learning, we are creating Desmos Snowglobes!

The inspiration came from a tweet by Joanna Stevens and I created this activity based on a Desmos Activity by Julie Reulbach. In Desmos Snowglobes, students start off with some tutorials about circles, ellipses, and some Desmos features such as domain/range restrictions and using inequalities to color graphs. After completing the tutorials, students view some Desmos snowglobes created by others before using the Desmos graphing calculator to create their own. Please visit and use code SA974 if you’d like to try this activity as a student! If you’d like to use this activity with your students, just click “Create Class Code” to get started.

If you would like help finding/creating a Desmos Activity for a particular topic or using a Desmos Activity with your own students, let me know! I am happy to help you plan a lesson, teach a model lesson, or co-teach a lesson with you. 🙂

Getting ready for the NSD Summer Institute!

The 2017 NSD Summer Institute is scheduled for August 21-25, 2017. Teachers in the Northshore School District have several opportunities for professional development during this year’s Summer Institute. Here are the math sessions available to NSD teachers.

  • Instructional Strategies for Teaching in the Block: With the transition to a block schedule, many teachers are interested in strategies for teaching in the block. On Wednesday, August 23rd, Shannon McCaw of SMc Publishing will be sharing instructional strategies for engaging students in the secondary math classroom in her workshop, Engaging Students in the 6-12 Math Classroom. I attended Shannon’s workshop in Federal Way last November and it was fantastic. Check out Shannon’s website at
  • Instructional Strategies for Elementary:
    • On Wednesday, August 23rd, Laura Nelson of SMc Publishing  will be sharing strategies for infusing the CCSS Mathematical Practices into the MX’13 math curriculum in her workshop, Engaging Students in the K-5 Math Classroom. Laura currently works with Tigard-Tualitin School District to enrich their MX’13 curriculum and I’m excited for her to share her expertise and experience with NSD teachers! This full-day workshop is currently open for registration to the Elementary Math Leadership Team; please see details below.
    • On Thursday, August 24th, elementary teachers have the opportunity to learn about Using 3-Act Math Tasks in K-5. This half-day training is appropriate for those new to 3-Acts as well as for teachers who have some experience but want to deepen their knowledge, and will include time for planning for implementation of a 3-Act Math Task in your own classroom.
  • 6-8 Math Pilot: On Thursday, August 24th, 6-8 Math Pilot teachers will attend training with Andrew Byrnes of Pearson to prepare to pilot the CMP3 math curriculum during the 1st quarter of the 2017-2018 school year.
  • STEM: On Friday, August 25, secondary math teachers have the opportunity to attend a full-day Desmos workshop. There is a beginner workshop, Using Desmos in 6-12 Mathematics, for those completely new to Desmos as well as a Desmos 2.0 workshop for more experienced users, Engaging Students with Desmos 2.0. Participants will earn 6 STEM clock hours.

For more information about these sessions or to register to attend, NSD teachers can visit the 2017 NSD Summer Institute math offerings. I look forward to seeing NSD teachers in a couple weeks!

Patty Stephens

K-12 Math TOSA

Teaching in the Block

Wooden Blocks Family Toys Consulting Play Colorful, from

Our school district is preparing to transition to a block schedule for all secondary schools in Fall 2017. I spent approximately 8 years of my teaching career teaching in a block schedule. At Woodland High School, we had a 5-period modified block where block classes met for 80-90 minutes daily for a semester. At Maryknoll High School, I taught in a 3-period day on trimesters where each class met for almost 2 hours a day. Here are some of the things I learned from these experiences.

  • DEPTH: One of the advantages of the block is that it allowed plenty of time for deep exploration and full investigation of a topic in a class period.
  • REVIEW: My students needed more review in a block schedule than they did when taking math every day all year long. I had to find creative ways to incorporate review because we also needed time to learn new concepts. I tended to use warm-ups to refresh their memory about prior math they learned that we would need for the day’s lesson or lessons coming up in the near future.
  • ENGAGEMENT: Students won’t stay engaged for 80-90 minutes of lecture! I tried to mix things up and incorporate movement so kids weren’t feeling stir crazy. Variety is the key to making the block work well.
  • FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: During a 90 minute class period, I needed to know where students were at in their learning way before the end of class. Using formative assessment throughout the class period helped me adjust and address misconceptions early.
  • TECHNOLOGY: You may know by now that I LOVE using technology to support student learning, and teaching in the block allowed time for this. We could use technology to explore or investigate, to review, as a formative assessment tool, or as a way to capture student thinking through mathcasts.
  • CLOSURE: Closure became crucial when teaching in the block. Since I didn’t get to see my students every day, I needed to ensure they all left class with the day’s learning solidified. I strongly recommend an exit routine that includes a way to summarize the day’s learning (which also works well as a formative assessment that will help you with the next lesson).

For some practical advice and strategies for teaching math in the block, I suggest reading Math Giraffe: Teaching on a Block Schedule.

What I Love About the Desmos Graphing Calculator


Desmos is a free online graphing calculator tool that is available through any web browser or as an app for iPad or mobile devices. It has most of the functionality of a TI with some added features that I love.

  • Desmos is INTUITIVE: The Desmos graphing calculator is very user-friendly and intuitive. There aren’t many special commands to learn or to find buried within menus, like on some graphing calculators. If you want to trace a graph there is no special button, just click and hold on the graph to see the coordinates.
  • Desmos TABLES: Desmos supports function notation, and tables link to function values. Type in the x-values you want, and see them appear on the graph.


  • Desmos SLIDERS: Sliders are my absolute favorite feature! Sliders allow me and my students to easily see how a parameter affects a graph. It takes just seconds to build an interactive demonstration for your classroom! Visit to view a quick video tutorial or to take an interactive tour

Sliders are also a great way to animate graphs, which can be used to model a situation over time. I used sliders to create this animated Ferris wheel to model the distance of the rider from the ground over time.


  • Desmos lets me SAVE & SHARE: Users can work on a problem, save their work, and share it with others. That means you can create a graph and then share the link with your students for them to access it. They can save their work and share it with you, or go back to their work later to add to it or revise. It also means that teachers can share graphs with each other instead of reinventing the (Ferris) wheel!


If you would like to learn more about the Desmos graphing calculator, please visit


It’s been a whirlwind!


This school year has been a whirlwind so far! But things feel like they are settling in now and I’m finding my groove. 🙂 Here are a few things that I have in the works:

  • New position: I accepted a new position as the K-12 Math Curriculum Specialist for my district. Expanding into the elementary grades is new for me and I’m looking forward to it!
  • Math adoption: I am facilitating our district’s 6-8 math adoption and have been reviewing instructional materials. In this first year of our 2-year adoption process, we are focused on reviewing current research and exploring materials that align with our vision of student learning.
  • Desmos Fellows: I’m thrilled to be a Desmos Fellow this year! I spent Veteran’s Day weekend at Desmos headquarters with a fantastic group of math educators, exploring and learning about Desmos. Great weekend, and I got more Desmos socks. 🙂 Read the Des-blog for lots of Desmos Fellows info and updates.
  • More Desmos: I have been collaborating with a math specialist in a neighboring district to create Desmos PD for our secondary math teachers and am also planning PD about Desmos Activity Builder for elementary teachers.
  • 3-Act Math Tasks: I’m continuing to support our teachers as they implement 3-Act Math Tasks in their classrooms. Secondary math teachers began this work after working with Dan Meyer in August 2015, and now we are expanding this into the elementary grades. I am providing after-school PD this year and full-staff PD at some of our elementary schools.
  • Model lessons: I’ve been getting into classrooms and using Desmos and 3-Act Math Tasks with students! So far this year I’ve been able to use Sugar Sugar and Pentomino Puzzles Desmos activities with some junior high students and worked with teachers to use the Classroom Conversation Toolset in the Desmos teacher dashboard. I’ve also taught several 3-Act lessons; I used Nana’s Chocolate Milk with 7th graders after Thanksgiving, taught Thick As A Brick to 6th graders on Wednesday this week, and will be teaching The Cookie Monster to first graders on Monday.
  • WA Math Fellows: This is my 4th year as a WA State Math Fellow. This year I have adopted a 7th grade class to work with. I administered the baseline task via Desmos and based on our analysis of their work, the classroom teacher and I used the 3-Act Math Task Nana’s Chocolate Milk to address some misconceptions students had about ratios and proportional relationships. We are now deciding next steps with these students but may use Thick As A Brick along with this Desmos calculator animation.
  • NSD Math Fellows: This is my 3rd year facilitating our district Math Fellows program. Our focus will be Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets. I am currently planning our book study which will begin in January 2017.

Whew! That’s quite a list and it’s only December. 🙂 Stay tuned for updates!

Number Sense with KenKen Puzzles

I have to admit, I’m addicted to KenKen Puzzles. 🙂 KenKen Puzzles are a style of arithmetic and logic puzzle invented in 2004 by Japanese math teacher Tetsuya Miyamoto, who intended the puzzles to be an instruction-free method of training the brain. This puzzle game helps students improve their calculation skills, logical thinking and persistence.

Rules for Playing KenKen

Like Sudoku, no digit can be repeated in a row or column. In addition, the numbers must combine to form a target number using a specific operation.

  • Fill in the numbers from 1 to the grid size. For example, this 4×4 KenKen puzzle uses digits 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • No digit may be repeated in a row or column.
  • The numbers within each heavily outlined set of squares, called cages, must combine (in any order) to produce the target number in the top corner using the mathematical operation indicated.
  • Cages with just one square should be filled in with the target number in the top corner.
  • A number can be repeated within a cage so long as it is not in the same row or column.

KenKen Resources

Here are some resources if you would like to use KenKen Puzzles in your classroom.