Aug 282014

Algebra 2:


My learners blow my mind. I assigned my Honors Algebra 2 learners to write their name.

Seriously, all they had to do was write their first name.

In Desmos. With functions.

Heh, I am evil, right? It gets worse. They had just taken a quiz, so we only had about 10 minutes left in class. I showed them how to create an account on Desmos to save their work. I showed them how to type in a function. I showed them my name in Desmos. And then I showed them that if they scrolled down on the main Desmos page, they would see, well, they would see some amazing art created by learners like themselves.

That is it. That is all the prep, instruction, training, or anything else you want to call it, that I gave them. They had to take this bare bones instruction, write your name, and run with it. I never showed them circles, ellipses, or any other function. They learned it all themselves. Here are samples of what was shared with me:

skylar24 cloe10

Skylar = 24 functions, Chloe = 10 functions


janine35 gentry17


Janine = 35 functions and Gentry = 17 functions

Pretty representative. I did not say they had to use any special functions, just write your name. And I want to point out, I never showed them translations. They figured that out themselves by working with Desmos for ONE SINGLE DAY! Nice.

Then I started looking at the functions each person used. I noticed something very interesting that Chloe did. She only used 10 functions, but the “e” was especially interesting. You see, she did BOTH a domain restriction AND a range restriction on the same function.


See what she did there? Mind Blown. I am still stunned by the creativity she used with Desmos. When I asked her why she did both her answer was, “I was just trying stuff until it worked and looked the way I wanted it.” Genius. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Anyway, we finished up by rocking translations. They already had the main part of translations down because they played with Desmos. That was awesome. They are still trying to make things complicated, but I am almost finished breaking them of the assumption things have to be difficult.


AP Stats

I am short 40 books so far this year, so I need to do things to get my learners doing problems without the book. One way to do that is Relay Cards. This is how I play the game. I hand out problem 1. Everyone gets the same problem, so they can discuss it, but they have to write their own.  I use a magnet to hang the answer I previously made on the board. The learners can come up and read the key after they have tried it. Their answer must be the same as my key in meaning, not in words (usually. Sometimes it has to be exact, as in the probability section.)

Once card one is done, they come to me for card 2, and so on.

Having the key on the board keeps me free to answer questions and help while I hand out the new problems and double check the accuracy of the previous.

I just finished a set for Experimental Design.  I have other sets (created by Shelli Temple (@druinok) almost completely).

03 Relay Cards for Conditional Marginal Probabilities

Ch 6 – Relay Cards – normal models

These are a great way to get the learners talking about the stats, writing and working with stats, and the teacher does nothing but help, coach, and assist learners learn.

I like this activity greatly.

  7 Responses to “My learners taught me today”

  1. Glenn, thanks for this post and the links. This relay is very different from a math team type of relay. I do like the idea of parsing up the problems. What do you do with them once you’ve double-checked? Hand them back?

  2. Amy, I will collect them as a bundle after all the problems are done. I check them as I go, and they turn in the bundle at the end. A class period is usually NOT enough time to get 7 done, so they can finish as homework.

  3. Hi Glenn. Fascinating stuff here. Thank you for taking the time to put it together! I’m just getting ready to start teaching math (algebra 2 and precalculus) here in Wuhan, China and am interested in the Harkness method. Any chance I can correspond with you via email to pick your brain a bit as I give this a try?



  4. ahhhh, love the write your name assignment! i did desman last year and loved it, but this is also super fun. 🙂

  5. […] pace required by our curriculum.  This morning I am especially excited to borrow an activity from Glenn Waddell; my students will learn about Desmos by playing with it, like I did […]

  6. Reference to the relay cards(for conditional P): What do you mean they have to write one of their own? Different context with different numbers, but the answers have to be the same? so are they making another card just like yours but with different numbers and context that yields the same answers? What if they don’t finish all 3, are they all required so they must finish everything else as HW? I love this idea! What are the instructions for the experimental design version? And for the normal models version?

  7. Paula,
    I don’t have them write their own problem. I have them write their own cards. I mean, this is not a group exercise, but an individual exercise, but they can and should discuss the problems.

    The rules are the same for all. They have to finish the problems before they get the next one from me. If they need to take the last or the last 2 cards home as homework, then that is what they do. However, I will still give homework and now the cards just doubled them up.

    The instructions are always simple. You are responsible for checking your answers. I will scan them for necessary elements, but you have to check them. I look for, “are all the required pieces of the answer present or are you short cutting it and therefore not getting full credit.”

    Honestly, these should be full points, full credit, full speed, full discussion, fun activities. The conversation during these is always very rich.

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