We know the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented adult educators with the challenge of effectively teaching remotely. While none of it was easy, teaching math and problem solving was its own unique challenge.
Eric Appleton, a staff developer in the CUNY Adult Literacy Program in New York City, went looking for the best tools to successfully teach math from a distance. Desmos.com’s Classroom Activities tool came out on top. In the current issue of Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, Appleton uses his experiences to review Desmos.
Read an excerpt of the review:
In my class, the ease of student input into Desmos screens has helped us interact with each other’s ideas. Generally, students do this by sharing screens and looking at each other’s work. Since everyone has their work in the same online place (as opposed to a notebook, a Google Doc, an annotated PDF, etc.), students learn the routine of opening the Desmos activity and showing their work to each other. Once everyone learns how to share screens (not necessarily easy for everyone!), students can work collaboratively to make sense of the mathematics through conversation and demonstration. I can’t say enough about the power of students teaching each other by sketching, showing calculations with the embedded calculator, reasoning with a data table, and graphing points.
After assigning a Desmos activity, teachers also have access to a powerful teacher dashboard where students’ real-time responses can be tracked during a class or in between classes for homework. Teachers can observe where individual students are in activities and see their responses as they occur. There is no need for students to save or submit work, which simplifies the experience for students and allows teachers to give feedback immediately. For example, during a recent assignment, one of my students completed a data table that automatically plotted points on an accompanying graph. I was able to post a feedback note where I commented that some of the points weren’t in the same line as the other points. I wondered if the student had noticed this and why that might be true. When I returned to the dashboard the next day, the student had corrected the data table. This response to feedback would take days or weeks if homework had to be submitted, corrected, and returned, missing the moment when the feedback would be most useful.