Desmos: A Graphing Calculator in Your Browser
But what if you could ditch graphing calculators?
These are no small investment, but they are a required tool for high school math classes. You can’t study trig or calculus without one. But you can make a device do double duty and use your computer as a graphing calculator with Desmos.
What Is Desmos?
Desmos is a full-featured graphing calculator that can do some really cool stuff. But let’s start with the basics.
You get a blank graph on the right side. You get a list of equation slots on the left. Pretty much just like your old TI-83, but with a snazzy, modern look.
Type in an equation, and it instantly appears on the graph. If you have multiple graphs and you select one of them, a point will be placed at each intersection. Likewise, selecting an equation will place points at all critical points (i.e. maximum, minimum, zero).
If you click on the actual graphed equation, you’ll be able to trace it. A point will appear at the mouse cursor and give you the precise coordinates.
In other words, it does just about everything you need that fancy graphing calculator for (at least in terms of graphing).
Is This Really Going to Replace Graphing Calculators?
Probably not. While it has most of the capabilities of a standard TI-83 graphing calculator, I see a couple arguments against it.
First, teachers may not feel comfortable letting students use a tablet or other mobile device during tests. I can certainly understand the fear involved, because you’re giving kids a device they can text their friends with.
Second, students may still need to know how to use standard graphing calculators for other purposes. You can’t haul a Chromebook out to the SATs. Your college professor may not be so forgiving in terms of devices during tests.
But in terms of working on activities in class, I think this is way more intuitive and powerful than a regular graphing calculator.
And Now Students Don’t Need to Own Calculators…
Maybe you don’t want to integrate a tablet and Desmos as your full-time graphing calculator. But you definitely want to make kids aware of this app. If a kid has access to a computer but not a graphing calculator, well… now he or she has a graphing calculator.
This is a good argument for implementing a one to one environment. Now you can ensure that all students will have a graphing calculator at home to use for homework and studying. If schools purchase and provide calculators, it’s usually only for in class use. I know my school has a class set of calculators for each math class, but we have very few available to take home.
Anybody Used It In Class?
I’d be interested to hear from some real math teachers about their experience with Desmos. It looks awesome to me as a social studies teacher, but I admit it’s been a while since I’ve taken Calculus…