My kids were working on solving systems by graphing last week. Desmos has been making some inroads in my building the last couple years but it’s still not widespread, partially because we fancy ourselves as a school that prepares students for college – meaning that TI rules in our upper grade math courses. I had my students checking their hand-drawn work in Desmos, which led to some interesting reactions. For many, the ability to enter an equation and instantly see the graph made them more confident in their work. Eventually, one student asked me, “Mr. Dull, why can’t we have a quiz like this?”
Yeah, why not?
It sounds like my students are at max cap with pencil/paper systems quizzes too.
What if the quiz reflected the kinds of things we value in class? I know, novel concept, right? But in one of my many internal conflicts, I know my students need to do skills practice and individual written work, and I also want them to dive in to the discovery and collaborative stuff that Desmos does best. How do I marry the two? I’ve already done performance-based assessments (such as the Desmos art project) for conics. What would a Desmos quiz for systems of equations look like?
So I stumbled across a Twitter convo recently that led me to a circles quiz in Desmos Activity Builder written by one of the co-authors of Classroom Chef. (At least I think I saw this conversation on Twitter . I think even put a “❤️” on it but now I can’t find it. But it happened. Swear.) Anyway: OK, good, now I have a template for making my own quiz. Because if it’s good enough for the #MTBoS people, it’s good enough for me.
Then, time to go to work. For my first time, I’ll take it. I wanted to leverage the power of Desmos, recognizing that the collaborative piece is kind of by design going to be missing if it’s a quiz. We used the graphing tool, the sketch tool, the text boxes and the multiple choice option.
Plenty of explaining their thinking:
I wanted to be able to see their math work too, so for several problems I had them do the work on paper, and enter their answer in a text box on the Desmos screen.
And, because Children Must Play: Draw a dinosaur.
I definitely didn’t do myself any favors by setting up the quiz this way. I traded the self-grading ability of a Canvas quiz for the power of Desmos to support my students in their efforts to show their understanding of the math. That means I’m grading their pencil/paper work as well as their entries into Desmos. I had visions of me spending untold hours over a period of days trying to grade 90 quizzes.
So, a spreadsheet. Turned out to be the quickest I’ve turned around a stack of quizzes in quite some time. I made a column for each screen in the activity, then went screen-by-screen with the Desmos activity open in one window and the spreadsheet in another, recording the points by screen for each student. I set up a column at the end for their poster points, another to sum each row, and one to double the points so I could make the 15-question quiz worth 30 points in my gradebook.
Automating at least part of the grading cut my overall task time by half, if not more. My kids were stunned when I reported back on Monday that I was nearly done grading.
So how about student feedback on this project? Mixed. Many students appreciated not having to graph lines by hand. Others were stressed by having to switch back and forth between pencil/paper and a chromebook screen.
A couple were pretty blunt:
- “I feel that the quiz could be taken on paper“
- “Please just put the quizzes/tests on paper.“
And their answer to the question “How closely does this statement reflect your feelings: “I feel we should use Desmos (including its ability to graph, sketch, and submit answers) for some quizzes in the future.”” averaged 3.2 on a 1 to 5 scale. Right down the middle.
As for my reflections, I’ve got a couple of thoughts:
- I’m definitely interested in integrating a Desmos into assessments in a way that matches how we use it in class.
- I’m not sure I did a great job of that with this quiz.
- Honestly in looking back, there’s nothing about this quiz that was so Desmos-dependent that it couldn’t have been done on paper.
- So from a SAMR standpoint, this was substitution-level.
- Desmos activities are extra-awesome as formative assessment tools.
- Does that translate to Desmos quizzes as summative tools?
- I still think that a good Desmos quiz is out there for me.
There’s a lot of firepower from the neck up out there in my online PLN. I’m gonna keep searching for some examples of existing Desmos quizzes to use as models. Plus, my department chair offered some useful feedback on my first try, things I was able to integrate into the quiz before I rolled it out to my students. I feel like my colleagues in the department can help me match the tool to the task as well.
Might be a good topic for an informal PD-brainstorming sesh after school someday.
If that happens, I’ll write about it here too.