Karen Wootton, Director of Curriculum & Assessment, email@example.com
Over the past couple of years, Desmos activities have been added to the middle school series of eBooks. These activities were developed by Desmos’ teaching faculty with input from CPM writers, and they serve a variety of purposes, depending on the activity. They can be used to introduce a topic, practice a skill, re-engage students with the topic, or be used as extensions.
This past October, CPM writers traveled to Desmos’ Headquarters to learn from the Desmos experts about what makes for a good activity and on programming the Desmos Computation Layer. Since then, the writers have been learning through doing: building test activities to stretch and improve their skills. Some of these activities will be shared at the Try This! page where you will be able to provide feedback about any of these shared lessons, as well.
In developing Desmos activities to complement CPM lessons, the writers have been grappling with the issues that arise when using technology. The team asks themselves many questions: How can we ensure the activity is student-centered and team-worthy? How can we ensure that students are still discussing the mathematics? Does the technology enhance the lesson and the learning? What does the technology afford students that the paper version cannot?
Many of the Desmos activities available on the Internet were not created by the teaching faculty at Desmos. We have explored several of these activities, and sadly, some are comparable to a worksheet. We have also seen many CPM lessons converted to a Desmos Activity by cutting and pasting the problems from the lesson in the eBook into Activity Builder. While this does allow the teacher to pace the class through the problems, a desirable feature, we have seen teachers add too many scaffolds while doing this. This lowers the cognitive demand of the problems, and is a violation of copyright laws.
The goal is to develop an activity that accomplishes several things. First, it must still maintain a high level of cognitive demand. Second, it must also keep students discussing the mathematics in teams. This is not always easy when technology is introduced; laptops and Chromebooks create a literal wall between students. Also, the activity should not introduce technology unless the technology enhances the lesson and the learning.
These weighty ideas have pushed the writers to think about the bigger idea of curriculum delivery. Must math information and lessons be transmitted to students via a textbook? Is an eBook the best method to deliver lessons? Must students have some form of a book? If they didn’t, would parents complain? Should the student book really just be a shell for students to record notes and store other important information? Alas, the team has not found all the answers—yet!
As the writers develop Desmos activities for the high school courses, they will be linked in the books when they are ready. Expect to see these showing up throughout the spring and summer. You can help move these along more quickly by providing feedback when they are posted at our Try This site!
If you have thoughts on Desmos activities or the future of curriculum delivery, please share them! CPM wants to know what you think is necessary and what would be a wish. And if you have possible high school Desmos activities you would like to share with other CPM teachers, submit them to CPM via the Sharing Tab in your eBook.
And once the writers have answered all their questions and figured this all out, don’t worry. The answers will be shared in a future newsletter article. Stay tuned!