Desmos Activity Builder

Desmos Activity Builder

Who I am

How I use it:

  • Use it to introduce a concept and vocabulary at the beginning of a lesson
    • Convert some of your paper investigations into a classroom activity.
  • Use it to get your students to practice in the middle of a lesson
    • Transformations etc…
  • Awesome way to help the students connect the algebra and the graph

Jump in: Be a student

Go to with Class Code –

  • class code UKCV7
  • class code MKGEZ

Features that I use:

  • Student progression information
    • Left side
    • Number of students completed each slide
  • Pausing the Class
  • Graph Overlay
  • Isolating a students written answers
  • Class responses to a question
    • Id good answers
    • Id students who are not “getting it”
  • Carry forward student work from one screen to another
  • Now can make your own Marbleslides and Card Sort
    • Desmos labs
  • Sliders – I almost never let the students use them – they just start guessing.
  • History – you can even grade it if you want.

Part I – Desmos Activity Builder – Build Your Own

Create your own:

  • Go to and log in
    • Use your google ID
  • Create a new one (click on the icon under “Your Custom Activities”)
    • You can try to create the “Lines activity” from above.
  • Or Copy one:
    • Search through one of the “Bundles”
    • Click on the red button “Browse all activities”
    • Click on “Learn More”
    • Click on “Duplicate this Activity” and start editing
    • Click on “Start a new session” and invite someone to complete your activity
  • Desmos “How To” Page – with video

Other Links:

How not to bore your math students to tears!

Who I am

  • I am John Chapin
  • I teach Math and Computer Science at Freedom High School.
  • My email address:
  • My twitter handle: @Math_CS_Teach


  • Not to teach you everything about Desmos, but to get you going in the right direction.
  • 1/3 Desmos Calculator, and 2/3’s Desmos Activity Builder – Why Desmos?

  • It can get your students doing great math thinking:

    • Modeling math
    • Writing about math
    • Talking about math
    • Making predictions about math, construction arguments, critiquing others
    • Making links between the algebra and the visual graph.
    • Working collaboratively
    • Really all 8 of the common core math standards.
  • Low floor and a high ceiling.

    1. Low Floor –
    2. High Ceiling
  • It has advanced features for:

    • Calculus – Integrals and Functions
    • Math Analysis – Polar Graphing, Trig, Summation
    • Stats – Regression, Statistics, Tables
    • Algebra – Functions, inequalities, domain restrictions, points
  • You can use it to create amazingly interactive lessons very quickly

  • But, they cannot use it on an AP test or an SOL.  

    • True, they need to know how to use a calculator. But, this is not an either/or question. Desmos, does not replace the calculator, but it will enhance your lesson.

Part I – Desmos Calculator

Features that I use:

  • Show what the algebra looks like
    • It always seems like I am saying, “What do you think it looks like? Let’s check it out on Desmos.”
  • Double check homework
    • Solving two equations and two unknowns
    • Finding the x intercepts
    • Verifying regression equations
  • The colors and the ability to make a graph disappear.
    • You can easily graph multiple equations and hide them and then make them reappear.
  • Have them turn in the link instead of printing off the graph for their projects.

Jump in: Desmos Bingo

Part II – Desmos Activity Builder

Features that I use:

  • Use it to introduce a concept such as transformations
    • Convert some of your paper investigations into a classroom activity.
  • Use it to get your students to practice such
    • Trig transformations
  • Turn your paper investigations into interactive classroom activities.

Jump in: Be a student

  • Go to with Class Code – UX5H

Part III – Desmos Activity Builder – Build Your Own

Create your own:

  • Go to and log in
  • Create a new one (click on the icon under “Your Custom Activities”)
    • You can try to create the “Lines activity” from above.
  • Or Copy one:
    • Click on the red button “Browse all activities”
    • Click on “Learn More”
    • Click on “Duplicate this Activity” and start editing
    • Click on “Start a new session” and invite someone to complete your activity
  • Desmos “How To” Page

Steal 2

  • Pick 2 that have already been created that you will use for next year.


  • Tweet to @Desmos the link to your very first activity!

Part IV – Polygraph – Fun way to build math vocabulary

Other Links:

Desmos to 3D printout in 30 minutes.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 19.15.07 IMG_4902

 It can be done:

  • Students do not need to use special expensive software

  • Your school does not need to have a 3D printer.  

At TMC15 (Twitter Math Camp 2015) Heather Kohn shared her class activity where she had her students take their designs from and they 3D printed them.  I thought this was AWESOME!

But, she was at a STEM school where the students had training on CAD software that could create the special files and they had plenty of 3D printers.

I wanted to do the same but my school only has one 3D printer and the students have NO design experience.

Here are the steps I used to create a 3D object using my son’s Desmos design:

1) Create a design in Desmos.

2) Prepare the image in Desmos for a clean screenshot.

  • Remove the background grids.
    • Click on the wrench in the upper right corner.
    • Un-click the round grid, x-axis and y-axis.  If you don’t remove these, they will get converted to part of the 3D design.
  • Click on projector mode to make the design lines thicker.

Screenshot 2015-08-04 19.51.37 :

3) Create a .jpg or .png of the design by taking a screen shot.

  • Take a screen shot of just the design – not the whole screen.
    • On a Mac:  command/shift/4
    • The snipping tool on Windows:
    • Chromebook:
    • chromebook partial screenshot
  • You can actually use any 2D png or jpg design, not just ones from Desmos.  Black and white designs/drawings with thick lines work best.
  • Here is my screenshot – Ben logo.png

:Ben logo

4) Convert the screen shot to .SVG (scalable vector graphics) format.

  • I used
  • Choose Convert to .SVG under Image Converter. I did not change any of the optional settings.
  • Click on Convert file.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 10.44.54

5) Convert the .SVG to .STL(StereoLithography) file for 3D printing.

  • Import into 3D design software:
    • Go to the FREE 3D design website  This is a very basic 3D design program.  You may have to create an account.
    • Click on “Create a new design”.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 10.47.13


  • Import the .svg file (and modify if you have to)
    • Set the scale to 10% (right hand side) BEFORE importing.
      • If you let the scale be 100%, it will probably be too big for the workspace (you won’t see anything – it is very frustrating).
      • If you don’t like the size after importing, just hit Ctrl z to undo and import at a different scale.
    • Import the .svg file created in the previous step   Screenshot 2015-08-05 11.31.05
    • Modify the imported file (if needed).  If you want, you can make the imported design taller, wider, add elements, etc. I added a flat bottom to my design (the purple flat object -top right) because the elements were not connected and would have printed that way- see below for final drawing.  If all the lines in your design are connected, you do not have to do this.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 11.36.17

6) To Print Your Design 

  • Click on “Design” in the upper left hand corner Screenshot 2015-08-05 11.38.22

     If you have a 3D printer: 

  • Click on “Download for 3D Printing.”  This will save your design as a .stl file that can be used by your 3D printer.
  • You can also upload the .stl file to any 3D printer service.  The costs are surprisingly inexpensive.

     If you do not have a 3D printer:

  • Click on “Order a 3D Print.”
  • Choose one of the online 3D printer services.
    • Shapeways is a mainline service.
    • 3D Hubs is sort of like the UBER of 3D printing.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 11.42.36

Here is the end product for my son’s design.  

The whole design process took:

  • Desmos:  20 minutes.
  • .png to .svg conversion – 1 minute.
  • TinkerCad (I am NOT a TinkerCad expert) – 2 minutes for import and basic conversion, 15 minutes for the additional editing.
  • 3D printing – 8 minutes – it is a small design.



My son just got his license, so he is drilled a hole through his printed design and put it on his keychain.

All of this can be done with browsers and little CAD design knowledge and you don’t even need to have a 3D printer.

Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?

#TMC15 Day 2 – Notes

It is true.  TMC is like drinking from a fire house.  These blogs of TMC15 are really just my own notes of the experience so that I would have a quick reminder of what I found really exciting and also a parking spot for links so I wouldn’t have to go hunt down the links in Twitter.

There is a Wiki with all of the materials …

Before we started – It is beautiful


My Favorites

1.  AWESOME – Search blogs of MTBOS teachers

2. Cool Geometric shape coloring book – Patterns of the Universe: A Coloring Adventure in Math and Beauty by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harris

3.  Personal Whiteboards Organized – velcro buttons on the plastic sleeves –

a. EAI education smart pals –

b. Or use shop ticket holders from Amazon,

4.  Give high fives as they walk in (everyday) – Why am I giving a high fives? Because you are doing something awesome – walking in my classroom.

5. 3D Desmos Designs – upload image and have them printed out.

Morning Sessions – DESMOS!

I can’t say until this afternoon what the big announcement is, but ask and you shall receive!

Bank of our Desmos graphs we create –

MISC – Cool list of Precalc premade Desmos tools –

Lunch with Timon 

– Tarsia puzzle creator –

Afternoon Favorites – 

– Chris Shore –

– Anna Blinstein – Google Classroom

– Desmos -Make your own Activity builder is coming in August 3rd!

Friday Keynote – 

“Math from the heart, not the textbook”

–  Poor at developing a teacher community

TMC15 Day 1

Morning Desmos Group


Agenda – – create movable gifs from Desmos graphs.

List of Stats capabilities –

-Computer Science Teachers Association –



-Use Periscope to live video feed

Afternoon – Keynote: Growing Our Own Practice



– Great teachers –

– Define problems are actionable (not students finish faster than others, but problem is I need richer tasks).TEACHER AGENCY (finding ways blog)

– Representations of practice include more student voice and student perspective.  EMPATHIC REASONING (math mistakes blog)

– Interpretive principles focus on connections among teaching, math, and student understanding. ECOLOGICAL THINKING (rafranz Davig?)

—–PollEverywhere used to collect real time poll

-Nix the tricks wiki

Afternoon Sessions

–  Video Games and Rich Mathematics

– Play even/odds

-Paths to success

— Embrace the Medium  –

— Notice and Wonder

– Draw something app – repeat probablility –

– Game of Threes – what is the scoring rule?

MathMagic Session – Art Benjamin

 Has a Ted Talks

 Cool!… Why!

Square Numbers in your head 

Magic Algebra

Should have been a snow day! “Get your Education on!”

The roads were horrible.

The hash tage #CloseFairfaxCountySchools was the #1 trending hastag in the WORLD! (yeah the roads were really bad)

All of the math teachers except for 1 made it to school (some high schools only had 1/3 of the teachers show up)

A student made it to my first block class, throws down her coat, scarf and huge portfolio and announces

“I almost died getting to school today!  Let’s get our education on!”

Awesome….  we did not wake up to be mediocre today!