Designing tasks for Desmos Classroom

An increasingly well-known example of classroom technology for teaching maths is Desmos Classroom. However, Desmos classroom can be used in a range of contexts. Teachers from CfEM colleges and their partners who took part in the action research professional development in 2020-21 experienced using it from the perspective of a ‘student’, to complete pre-session activities.

Desmos Classroom allows a teacher to design a sequence of activities (sometimes whole lessons) for their students and to monitor what their students are doing on the screen, collect feedback and save responses. Importantly, teachers can use the answers students give to structure classroom discussions. It is clearly important to consider carefully the tasks given to the students and the questions they are asked.

Patrik Gustafsson and Andreas Ryve (2021) from Mälardalen University in Sweden explored task design in the context of ‘classroom response systems’ (CRS), such as Desmos Classroom. They were interested in developing design principles to generate rich classroom discussion. They looked at multiple choice questions, and came up with three design principles, each focusing on a different aspect of student learning:

  • For conceptual understanding, create a challenging task with a) statements, b) fictitious answers or solutions, c) multiple defendable solutions, and/or d) choices that belong together except one, because these tasks can force students to evaluate, discuss and reason about important concepts
  • For students’ understanding of procedures, create a challenging task with choices displaying different possible solutions, because these tasks can force students to analyse, discuss and reason about the effectiveness and/or correctness of these different strategies and methods
  • For students’ misconceptions or common mistakes, build distractors on typical misconceptions or mistakes, because this offers the opportunity to conduct discussions that can force students to discard or decrease these misconceptions or mistakes.

By Marie Joubert, Senior Research Fellow in Mathematics Education, University of Nottingham 

Gustafsson, P., & Ryve, A. (2021). Developing design principles and task types for classroom response system tasks in mathematics. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 1–22.


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