March 1 Day 358: Jumping In With Abandon

Twice now, I have been in a webinar/online conference where a presenter used Desmos Teacher to engage the students online. It is similar to Poll Everywhere in that by sharing a link, the audience can follow the presentation and interact using multiple choice, text boxes, free form drawing, or integrated Desmos explorations. It’s really slick.

I saw it in action the first time this summer in a series of three webinars by Rosalie Bélanger-Rioux and Sara Rezvi and for a second time just this past weekend at Hortensia Soto’s invited talk at the Golden Section meeting. Each time I see Desmos Teacher in action, I am amazed. I knew it was something I should take the time to learn about, but I just didn’t think I had the capacity for one more new technology.

I’m here to report, I was wrong.

I had written a new talk, *YOU* Belong in Mathematics, for the Panamanian mathematical outreach program, Fundapromat, created by executive director Jeanette Shakalli. Recently, Jeanette started a new series in English and I am happy to participate.

The talk plays with mathematical ideas of belonging (and not belonging) made popular by Mary Bourassa’s and Traci Jackson’s #mathwalks, hopefully to encourage younger mathematicians along their mathematical journey. In my presentations, be they in person or virtual, I always have active components. For this talk, I struggled with the idea of using Google Slides but did not have enough control over what slides people could access. I created a Limnu board but I worried that the first-time-user-learning-curve does not lend itself to use in a 40 minute talk. So this morning, I changed everything and created a Custom Desmos Activity. I’m pretty pleased.

I can control what slides participants can access. On each slide, they select one of four choices and enter their thinking into the text box. We will tackle the first question together to discover the true nature of such problems. Then I will open up enough activities that participants have plenty of variety to keep them occupied or they can focus on just one or two problems and think more deeply.

As a final step in their transformations to mathematicians, I ask participants to create their own “Which One Doesn’t Belong” example from scratch. Desmos makes it easy for them to draw or type (even math) on the screen. And I can see and share everyone’s contributions.

Yes I’m nervous about trying new technology. Wish me luck on Wednesday (or register to attend for moral support).

One final fun comment. When responses are anonymized, everyone is assigned the name of a mathematician. There is some good variety from ancient to modern. But how fun to see names of people I actually know (either because they were teachers of mine or I follow them on social media). Did you know about this @AliciaPL25?

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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