I fell in love with the Desmos free, online graphing calculator this June at ISTE, not just because it’s a cool, fully-functional graphing calculator but because of the philosophy of the people who founded and run the company. Their philosophy is that “learning is a process of exploration and discovery, not a series of answers, everyone can learn and enjoy math, given the right environment, and math is beautiful and surprisingly fun.”  Those of you who know me know I have no business writing about math or a graphing calculator but 15 minutes with these guys and their product made me think I might actually be able to understand math.

Why I like it

There are several things I really like about this product.

  1. It works in any browser.  No special software to buy or download so you can use it at home, at school, your students can use it.
  2. It’s great projected and even better on a SmartBoard.  You can operate the entire calculator from the board in a large clear format.
  3. You can use the smaller keypad or the larger, scientific keypad, depending upon your needs.
    smaller keypad
    Extended scientific keypad
  4. You can color code your points and lines.  This makes it easier to follow what’s happening.
  5. My favorite is that the graph changes immediately when you type in even a portion of the formula so you can quickly and easily see what happens when you change one number or one power.  Very powerful visualization.
  6. You can share them and then play back all the formulas to see the process.

Cool things to do with it

To help kids understand graphs have them draw a picture using points.  This was something that seemed easy enough but when you look at the Desmos Facebook gallery you’ll see that people have taken it so much farther.  Graph of the statue of liberty

I couldn’t draw this with a pen and paper much less math but people are doing it and sharing it.  You can then take these and look at exactly what formula makes that type of shape to help you better understand what is happening in the formula itself.

Check it out, especially my Teacher Education folks.  Again it’s free and according to Eli Luberoff, Desmos’ founder and CEO, it will always be free.  He and the company are very open to suggestions and enhancements so if you see something that you wish the program would do then email them.  They’ll try to make it work.