Desmos itself is a website that focuses on learning math by doing it, rather than memorizing functions and their equations. It is an interactive graphing calculator that allows students to alter their functions to see different graphs, and learn what each function looks like. Desmos also has a version just for teachers that contains many activities for students to learn different aspects of math.
One activity I found that would be particularly helpful when teaching middle school or high school students about exponential, linear, and quadratic functions is the Penny Circle activity. In this activity, students are asked to determine which type of function best explains the growth in the number of pennies that can be held in each circle. Students are able to adjust the diameter of the circle and virtually add pennies to the circle, and move the pennies around so that more will fit. The students are able to submit their estimations, and see the data from the rest of their classmates. The program also gives information such as the mean, median, and mode estimations. The reason I was drawn to this activity was because it can be done in real-life as well. Students can compare their online results to those results in real-life simulations of this activity, and work with partners.
This activity and other activities like it are appealing to teachers because it offers many benefits to their instruction as well as their students learning. One of these benefits is group work and student collaboration. These interactive activities open the doors for students to work together and feed off of each other's knowledge. Another benefit of this activity is the ability to instantly assess their students learning. The teachers are able to see the different estimations that students make right away, and track their thought process throughout the activity. Teachers can also model and ask questions along the way to steer their students thinking in the right direction. This type of activity gives the teacher instant feedback as to what areas the students are strong in and which areas they need more assistance. An additional benefit to the Desmos activities is that they are engaging and it gives the students the opportunity to use technology. In our society students thrive with technology, and by incorporating hands-on and virtual simulations of activities students are remaining alert and engaged in the learning, thus drawing their own conclusions and discovering the mathematical concepts on their own.
As a future teacher, when I think of teaching middle school and high school math, I think it is important to keep our students active in the classroom so that they are taking responsibility for their learning. Through programs like Desmos, we can provide our students with the opportunities to discover mathematics on their own and with our guidance, they will be able to make sense of the concepts and connect them to previous topics which will make their learning more meaningful. Desmos is just one of the websites we can use to make math fun again!
The Penny Circle activity as well as many others can be found at: https://teacher.desmos.com/.