Function Art Project Requirements

After a brief conversation on Twitter, I realized I never posted my student project guidelines for my Desmos Function Art Project. Here are the documents!

One of my coworkers made this handy Desmos QuickStart Guide which has been a lifesaver for getting students started on their projects! I also have students do the “Restrictions” Tour on Desmos.

For Part 1 of the project, students recreate a face using the Des-man activity.
Explanation here.

For Part 2 of the project, students draw their own designs, write the equations, and input them into Desmos.
Explanation here.

3D Printing in Math Class

At Twitter Math Camp, I did a five minute My Favorites presentation on the 3D Desmos Designs project that my students created this past spring. The reason it’s my favorite 3d project, is because right now it’s the only authentic way I have discovered to have my students 3D print in Algebra 1.


Afterward, many attendees approached me wanting to discuss 3D printing in math class in more detail. This led to a lunchtime conversation with 27 individuals! Many expressed an interest in 3D printing because their schools had purchased a printer, but no one knows how to use it. Or because they are trying to convince an administrator to purchase one, but don’t have enough evidence of its worth.

After a couple great ideas for 3D printing in math class were shared…

I decided it would be worthwhile to create a google form where math teachers can share their 3D printing ideas. Even if a teacher hasn’t had the opportunity to actually do the project yet, the idea will most definitely be useful to another teacher.

If you would like to contribute a 3D printing in Math Class idea, please fill out the form below, or go here:

If you would like to view the responses, please go here:

Let’s keep this conversation going!

#TMC15 – My Favorite

Although I just returned “home” from a California adventure that included visits to Santa Cruz, Big Sur, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Claremont… I actually felt like I was home while attending this year’s Twitter Math Camp (TMC). It has become my must-attend event of the summer, and I plan the rest of my break around it. Doing math and talking about math with such passionate and inspiring educators propels me into the new school year on high speed. Next year’s camp will be held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis from July 16-19, 2016 and you can bet I’ll do anything in my power to attend.


It always take a bit of time to wind down from TMC; it’s information overload in the best way possible. But it’s unreasonable to think that I will return to my classroom in 5 weeks and implement everything I learned. These are my largest takeaways from TMC, and “my favorite” memories/quotes/highlights, that I wish to carry with me during the year.

Favorite Disney Picture(s): Pre-TMC, I spent a whirlwind 16 hours at Disneyland and California Adventure Park with Casey, Connie, Nicole, and Meg. We mapped our course through the parks to maximize the number of rides/attractions we could see in one day. And of course, when we weren’t tweeting while waiting in line, we talked about teaching math.

Favorite Price is Right Group: It’s a very long process of signing waivers, getting nametags, and being interviewed by producers for a potential spot on the show, but in the end it was worth it to check this item off my bucket list. We cheered and yelled prices at the contestants, and you can watch how it all played out on November 2nd!

Favorite Morning Session: I made the decision to attend Elizabeth and Chris‘ morning session on “Creating a Culture of Exploratory Talk” and it was the perfect decision for me. I have been attempting to hold better classroom discussions, but this session provided me with specific strategies/structures to use with my students to get them to have richer conversations. I have selected Elizabeth’s Talking Points Activity as my #1TMCthing, so I will be writing another blog post about that in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, here is our morning session wiki page, and here is one of Elizabeth’s posts about Talking Points.

Favorite Debating Activity: Table Debates. During the exploratory talk session, Chris shared his numerous activities for bringing debate into the math classroom. He shares many of his strategies on his website. An argument is comprised of two parts: a claim and a warrant. You can turn almost any statement into a debateable question by adding words such as: best/worst, always/sometimes/never, most, weirdest, biggest/smallest, etc. When students are table debating, they are given a problem or situtation, and two possible opinions on the topic. They must state their argument for the opinion on their side of the table. This is my favorite strategy because students might not always agree with the opinion they are given. However, they need to figure out a strong argument to support that opinion. I feel like many of my questions can be easily rewritten in this format, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to implement this activity this year.


Favorite Must-Watch TED Talk: In Fawn’s keynote, she shared a quote from Rita Pierson’s TED Talk: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I’ve come across this TED talk before, but never actually watched it… until now. The quote nicely highlights Fawn’s recommendations for good teaching: fast (in terms of returning emails, feedback, etc); fair, friendly, firm, and funny.

Favorite SMP Posters: During his talking on Teaching the 8 Practices, Chris shared his SMP posters and had us analyze them. Chris boils down all the CCSS into two words: Thinking and Communicating. The posters all have the same format and are designed specifically for our students. My favorite part of each poster are the questions in the bottom left corner. These are questions that not only can our students ask themselves to determine which practice they are doing, but we as teachers can ask them as we develop lessons and tasks.

Favorite Jumping Picture: Taking jumping pictures while traveling is kind of my thing, and I found a jumping partner in Connie. She shared my general enthusiasm for just having the best time ever no matter where we were, and it resulted in epic pictures like this one (the burgers were great too!)


Favorite Math Mistakes Activity: Andrew’s session on Math Mistakes and Error Analysis provided me with a great opportunity to analyze the value of mistakes and how we can use them to help our students learn. My favorite activity of Andrew’s is when he gives students a handout like this:
Every problem has a mistake. Every problem. Students must analyze the structure of the problem to build their conceptual understanding, based on what is currently incorrect. Students must fix the mistakes once identified and justify their reasoning. Read more about this activity on Andrew’s blog.

Favorite Good Teacher vs. Great Teacher Distinguishing Feature: Ilana Horn’s keynote titled “Growing Our Own Practice” was inspiring and informative. Among sharing many discoveries found during her studies, she shared three key features that differentiate between the good teachers and great teachers she observed: Teacher Agency, Empathetic Reasoning, and Ecological Thinking. My favorite among these is Teacher Agency. Ilana emphasized that great teachers state their problems as actionable items. The example she shared is how a teacher views the problem of a student finishing his/her work early. A great teacher does not discuss this problem as having fast vs. slow kids. A great teacher discusses this “problem” in terms of the task itself, and the value of finding group-worthy tasks that engage all levels of learners and include extension possibilities. As I start a new school year with another new principal, I want to remember this mindset: how can we take a problem and turn it into an action item?

Favorite New Desmos Activity: This is actually a trick. I can’t tell you about my new favorite Desmos activity because it hasn’t been released yet. But Eli gave the TMC crowd a sneak peek, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. It will change your teaching life. Stay tuned, it should be released sometime next week.

Favorite Data Table: In his session on Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces, Alex shared this data table from Peter Liljedahl’s research:

Hopefully this convinces you to head to your nearest home improvement store and purchase some shower board panels if you haven’t already!

Favorite Debriefing Partner: At the end of every day, Rachel and I would meet up for the walk/drive back to the hotel, and immediately begin sharing everything that happened during the day. It was one of the times of each day that I treasured most. We needed that time together to gather our thoughts and really process everything we learned/experienced. Since we didn’t end up attending a single session together, we were able to double our information intake. Thank you for being the perfect roommate, Rachel!

Favorite Piano Bar Song: Sweet Caroline. John requested it, someone else vetoed it, more money was thrown into the pot, and then we had an epic singing contest between both sides of the room. We owe a huge number of thanks to PianoPiano in Claremont for entertaining us each night.

My Favorite My Favorite: Matt shared his strategy of using music cues to help students “become self-directed learners.” I won’t go too in depth because Matt graciously wrote a very extensive blog post about it. Within his post, you can find a google folder with all the music he uses, and a list of the cues in which he uses music. I would like to try implementing 2 or 3 of these this year, but I am definitely overwhelmed trying to figure out the technology to make this happen in my classroom easily. If I can get it working, I know I want a music cue for: “Take out your chromebook, go to student desmos, type in the class code.”

Favorite Quotes:

  • “Find what you love. Do more of that.” –Christopher Danielson
  • “Bad teaching is not knowing that what you’re doing could be better.” –Fawn Nguyen
  • “Build connections so we’re not surviving in the classroom, we’re thriving.” -Fawn
  • “De-front your classroom.” –Alex Overwijk
  • “Don’t stress so much about how to make things debatable. Just throw the word ‘best’ in there and let it go.” –Chris Luzniak
  • “Strive for a Process Reward System, instead of an ‘Answer’ reward system.” –Chris Shore 

Thank you to the TMC volunteer planning committee! This special conference would not exist without all your hard work, and we are all better teachers because of it!

3D Desmos Designs

About a month ago I wrote about how I use Desmos Des-man to introduce an algebra graphic art project. I have done this project for several years now, but this time, I added a special twist… After making a design in Desmos, the students used Creo Parametric to create models of their designs which they 3D printed!

Step 1: I taped four sheets of graph paper together so that students would have a large work area. They chose a theme and started drawing. The only requirements I gave: there had to be at least one image per group member with at least 8 equations (at least 2 quadratic and 2 absolute value) and 2 inequalities

Step 2: Students divided up the drawing and started determining the equations. Some students physically cut their image apart so they could work on it at home.

Step 3: Students took turns inputting their equations into one Desmos calculator. This took a bit of time since the students could not all be the same calculator at once. Most of the groups would save the Desmos image as a PDF to google drive, and then share that file with their group members.

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Step 4: All of my students take an Engineering class where they learn how to use Creo Parametric. I also took a PTC STEM Certificate Program this past semester where I learned the basics of 3D modeling. I had each student start with a basic rectangle and they uploaded their Desmos image to the rectangle. Then they traced the outline and extruded the lines. That’s it! Some students who are very comfortable with Creo decided to add special features and colors.



Step 5: I printed the designs using our Stratasys uPrint machine and the students created 3-Dimensional Displays to showcase their work.

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Some groups did not complete a 3-Dimensional Display, so I will be turning their designs into magnets!

My students were so engaged in this project and so proud of the models they created. It felt so natural to have them continue working with their Desmos designs and turn them into actual 3d prints. One aspect of the project that I didn’t stress with the students this year was the scale of their models. Next year I will have students determine a group scale, so that each component of the image fits together better.

I feel very lucky to have access to a 3D printer at school, and I will be looking for new ways to bring 3D printing to my students naturally. If you have any ideas, please share!

Update: I shared this project during Twitter Math Camp 2015. Here is a video of my presentation:

My Take On Desman

One of my favorite course projects is the Graphic Art Project. Students will design an image on graph paper, write all the equations for it, and type them into Desmos. To intro this assignment, I have students complete my own version of the amazing Desmos Des-man activity.

Instead of having students create their own Des-man, I ask them all to recreate this picture:

The main reason I start by having all students create the same face is because this is a review activity for us. At this point in the year, students have learned to write equations for linear, absolute value, and quadratic equations. They have also studied domain and range restrictions. I want them to practice these skills, and not just guess/play with the sliders/numbers to see how the equations transform. Each student is given this sheet to show any work they did to find the equations:


The Teacher Desmos interface allows me to see very quickly who gets it and who needs help (see above). Some students will play around and choose their own colors, or add additional inequalities. When they are all done, we move on to Part 2, and I let them create their own designs. This year we are trying something special for the final product and it is still in the works… so, to be continued!

Stations Labs

photo (8)

To review for major assessments, I like to set up stations labs around my classroom. They usually take about 40-60 minutes for most students to complete, though some students end up finishing some stations for homework. I make one master answer key and keep it on me during the activity. The students check in with me after completing each station so I can give them immediate feedback. If they work is completely correct, I either sign my initials or stamp their sheet, and they move onto a different station. It can be a little chaotic but I like knowing where each students stands as the period progresses. I make the students move around the room (although many would like to stay in one seat) so they are active and get a chance to work with different students. Hope your students enjoy them too!

S-L-O-P-E Stations Lab:

W-R-I-T-I-N-G Equations Stations Lab (previously written about here):

S-Y-S-T-E-M-S of Equations Stations Lab:

F-U-N-C-T-I-O-N-S Stations Lab:

A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E Value Functions Stations Lab:

Q-U-A-D-R-A-T-I-C Functions Stations Lab:

(Some formatting errors have occurred due to uploading to Scribd, hopefully they can be fixed when the documents are downloaded!)

Favorited Tweets #2

Last year I described some the tweets I had favorited here. After another lull in blogging, I thought this might be an easy way to jump back in. Here are some recent tweets that I favorited, forgot about it, and now want to document.

1) Math Coherence Activity from Achieve the Core: This activity would be great for teachers on a PD day. Teachers must place the standards in the correct progression order without looking.

2) Row Games: Kate describes them very well in her blog post, and when Rachel was looking for one on properties of Exponents, Lisa directed her to this folder with a plethora of them!

3) This awesome graph/activity from the Shell Centre written about by Megan and tweeted about by Cliff.

4) CueThink: This tweet below from Caryn Trautz and this blog post from Andrew Stadel were my first introductions to CueThink.

Norma Gordon from CueThink has since presented at the Global Math Department and you can find the webinar here. It’s an app that will change the way our students communicate, problem solve, and receive feedback. Check. It. Out.