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 learn.desmos.com/sliders 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 learn.desmos.com/calculator.


I’m lovin’ Desmos Classroom Activities!

desmosconicsI began using the Desmos graphing calculator with my students at Maryknoll in 2012 and have LOVED it, but I didn’t really explore the Desmos Classroom Activities in-depth until this year. It all began at our Northshore School District Summer Institute this past August with Dan Meyer when he had us do the Central Park activity. I was hooked.

At a district PD session last week, teachers started off with a quick Desmos graphing calculator overview and learned how to create sliders. Next we explored the iPhone 6s Opening Weekend Sales activity to see an example of a task that was adapted using the Desmos Activity Builder, and we read Dan Meyer’s post, Desmosify Your Worksheet. Then teachers choose a lesson of their own and turned it into a Desmos Classroom Activity. Here are a few examples:

Teachers used these activities with students this week and were very happy with the results. One of the reported advantages was that graph windows are preset for students so they could focus on the mathematical concepts being studied rather than getting sidetracked by technical issues.

The sliders also made exploration MUCH easier. In the past, using these lessons with a standard handheld graphing calculator meant that students had to enter several equations to explore the effect a coefficient has on the graph. Now the sliders allow a student to view numerous graphs instantly.

If you haven’t yet explored the Desmos Classroom Activities or tried out the Activity Builder for yourself, I highly encourage you to do so!

TI-Nspire workshops

TI-Nspire CASIf you happen to be in Hawaii on June 5 — 7 or June 24 – 26 and have some time in your schedule, explore the potential of TI-Nspire technology for implementing the Common Core State Mathematics Content and the Mathematical Practices for Mathematics.  You will learn ways for using TI-Npsire handhelds, TI-Nspire Teacher Software, Nspire Navigator as well as the TI-Nspire App for iPads to implement CCSS.

June 5 – 7 Getting Started with TI-Nspire™ in Middle Grades Mathematics and the Common Core  Hosted by and held at King David Kalakaua Middle School  

This workshop is designed for educators who are interested in or just beginning to use TI-Nspire™ technology. It will cover the basics to get started with the technology in Middle Grades Mathematics and Pre-Algebra. This will comprise the use of both the handheld and the Teacher Software. TI-Nspire technology will be introduced in the context of the middle school mathematics curriculum. Participants will also explore learning resources such as Activities Exchange and Math Nspired, designed to support further use of TI-Nspire technology and additional activities, along with discussions on the integration of these in their classrooms. At the conclusion of the three days, participants should have a comfort level in the use of premade documents, along with basic skills in the use of graphing and the other applications of TI-Nspire technology.  For further information contact Scott Powell, scotpowe@gmail.com, 808-383-0359


 June 2426 Implementing the Common Core Mathematical Practices with TINspire™   Hosted by University of Hawaii  Curriculum Research Development Group, held at King David Kalakaua Middle School  

This workshop is designed to equip teachers teaching Middle Grades and High School Mathematics to excite and engage students using the Mathematical Practices. This will comprise the use of both the handheld and the Teacher Software. TI-Nspire™ technology will be introduced in the context of middle grades and high school mathematics curriculum. An emphasis will be placed on pedagogy and the implementation of effective and appropriate use of technology in an interactive mathematics classroom, in alignment with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Participants will reflect on what steps are needed to get the students engaged in the mathematical practices through case studies, video and task analysis. For further information contact Judith Olson, jkolson@hawaii.edu, 808-956-3939


Each participant will receive:  

• Course Material Package: Instructional Activity Binder

• 1 Nspire CX Handheld ($150 value)

• 1 Single User License of TINspire CX Teacher Edition Software ($150 value)


To Register , visit: http://education.ti.com/en/us/pd/in-your-area/summer-workshops

Teacher registration cost: $350

Preservice Teacher cost: $125

Space is limited to 30 participants per institute.

Picture perfect

After our study of composition of ordinates and harmonic analysis, my Pre Calculus students were given the task of creating a picture drawn completely with equations. Their project had to include at least one sinusoid with a variable axis and at least one with a variable amplitude, and they had to include any necessary domain restrictions. Here are some of this year’s projects:

 Headphone Pre-Cal Man, by Elliott Beach scene, by Tessa 

Rainbow, by Brittany Kiss, by Kaylie 

They used TI Connect software to download their graphs from their graphing calculators and then edited/colored them in Paint.

Another student used WinPlot software (a free download) to create his project:

Blinky & PacMan, by Ross

Here are some more projects from previous years:

Snowboarder grinding on a rail, by Justin Jellyfish, by Melissa UFO Attack!, by Zach

AP Calculus Summer Institute

calcoverviewI spent last week at the AP Calculus Summer Institute in Vancouver, WA. I took the AP Calculus AB (experienced) session with instructor Sharon Cade. I was glad to have her as an instructor again; I took a week-long workshop from her a few years ago at PLU and learned so much. I gained a lot of insight during this session into the reading and scoring of the AP exam which will definitely help me better prepare my students next year. Besides the calculus, I also love her team-building activities and definitely plan to use them this year. I think they get kids in the right frame of mind, and they are fun. I know I learn more if I’m having a little fun. 🙂  The experienced session was also great because I got great ideas for lessons and incorporating technology from the other teachers in my session.

Here are a few math and tech highlights from the week:


TI-NspireWell, TI came to my AP Calculus workshop today and presented their new TI-Nspire, and we worked through a few activities using the CAS model. It definitely operates differently than their calculators and it took a bit to figure out some things such as how to enter a piecewise function (you choose a template) or where the inequality symbols were located. The lesson that we tried had too many glitches in it which didn’t create a great first impression; I’ve been told that the lessons on TI’s website work well but haven’t tried one yet.

Here are some observations from my limited session, the good (+), the bad (-) and the undecided (?):

(+) I like being able to enter the equation on the same screen where I view the graph.

(+) I liked the way that graphs can be dragged and manipulated using the cursor, BUT…

(-) The drag/manipulate feature was rather touchy and seemed a bit cumbersome on the handheld. All of these features seemed like they would work so much better using the Nspire software on my Hitachi Starboard rather than using the handheld.

(-) I don’t really care for the separate raised alphabetic keys. Maybe I just have to get used to it and I think I could live with it, but my first reaction is that it makes the keypad too busy.  

(-) The non-CAS model has an interchangeable keypad which turns the Nspire into a fully functional TI-84 emulator, but the CAS model has no such option. I use the TI-89 Titanium and think the CAS model should be able to emulate the 89.

(?) I’ve been told that you can link multiple representations of a function but the lessons we tried like this didn’t work correctly. 😦  Supposedly it is possible though.  

(?) I didn’t get a chance to save data and return to it later, so no comment there. Of course I can see possible uses for this feature, but I have no idea how easy or complicated this really is or how much easier cheating will become because of this feature.

I’ve been told that it can do some great things but my verdict is still out for now. It won’t be replacing my TI-89 Titanium tomorrow.