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Meredith Haataja, Middle School Math Faculty


When instruction moves from an in-person environment to an online experience, opportunities for more creative forms of assessment can arise. After learning about the various conic equations and graphs in our middle school Honors Algebra II class, I presented my students with an assessment project rather than a written test.

graphic tennis shoe

The directions for the project were simple: create a picture online using Desmos, an online graphing calculator, that incorporates a minimum of two of each of the equation varieties covered in the chapter. The engagement of the students was unbelievable!

Projects began to evolve into recognizable images, like an Adidas shoe, which used 94 equations. As the students got further into their projects, they began sharing what they were doing with one another, including tips and tricks for getting desired results and any new tools that they had uncovered. The success of one student fueled the desire of others to add more and create additional complex visuals.

Remarkably, many students taught themselves how to write the equations as inequalities, a concept not covered in class, so that the program would color in sections for them. Taking it one step further, some also figured out how to animate their pictures! Before long we had flying yellowjackets, moving ripples of water, swimming turtles, and rising bubbles!

What I learned from this project is that sometimes less is more from a teacher. By not limiting the project with rigid parameters and rubrics, the students were free to explore the limits of their own imaginations and mathematical abilities. What these students created took hours of hard work. None of these graphing projects were easily created. The best part for me was watching them cheer for each other, coach one another, and take joy in the creations of their friends! The happiness that each of them got from presenting the projects to their teachers online (both from the Middle School and Upper School faculties) was wonderful. It added a sense of normalcy to a most unusual educational experience!