Minnesota Math Students catch the eye of the national math educator audience…
Sara Van Der Werf
Teacher, Minneapolis South High School
A week before Valentine’s Day this year this tweet from Eli Luberoff (founder and CEO of Desmos) caught my attention:
I was in the middle of writing a blog on Valentine’s Day resources for math teachers and suddenly there was this really cool animated Desmos Valentine created by ‘Desmos Dude’. Stop now and watch the link below.
A Desmos Valentine by Desmos Dude.
After watching the video, I checked out ‘Desmos Dude’s twitter account and soon realized he was from Edina, Minnesota. From the tweets it appeared he was a student at Edina HS. So I tweeted him.
Desmos Dude replied that day and I am pleased to share with you the questions I asked him via Email. Enjoy.
So who are you? Are you a student or a teacher? What school are you at?
My name is Michael and I am a junior at Edina High School in Minneapolis.
How did you find Desmos?
I found out about Desmos from my math teacher, Mr. Franske (Edina High School), who frequently uses Desmos to help us visualize math concepts. I had him last year (sophomore year) for Precalculus and I have him this year for Calc BC. My first real experience with Desmos was last year when Mr. Franske offered extra credit to his Precalc students if they could graph and animate a track race in Desmos.
What do you love about Desmos?
I remember being introduced to the IT-Nspire CAS in 7th grade and thinking it was the ultimate calculator experience. It wasn’t until I really started using Desmos that I realized all the shortcomings of the TI interface. Whereas Desmos is simple and pleasing to the eye, TI can be somewhat cumbersome and ugly. The three things that set Desmos apart from other calculators are how easy it is to type equations, the ability to add sliders, and the numerous color.
Why did you start your youtube channel?
The idea to make Desmos Dude was somewhat spontaneous. Mr. Franske has a tendency to give extra credit to students if they impress him. After one of my classmates graphed a map of Minnesota in early December, I decided to try graphing a Christmas Tree. When I finished, I came up with the idea to make a time-lapse of me graphing it and post it on YouTube. The volume of positive feedback I got after that motivated me to innovate my technique, and Desmos Dude was the result. Now that Desmos Dude has had a decent amount of success in the math community, I think it’s time to expand the operation. By the time this article is published, I will have revealed that some of my friends have joined the Desmos Dude. My goal with the expanded Desmos Dude is to make videos that appeal to more than just the mathematically inclined. (Please don’t tell anyone about the expansion, I want to make that a surprise)
It looks like Eli (Desmos founder) reached out to you. Tell me about that?
Shortly after I made the Pirate Battle, I thought it would be a good idea to create a Twitter account to promote my content. About two hours after I made my first post, Eli Luberoff found me. A few days later, my math teacher received a package from him that contained a Desmos t-shirt, a bunch of Desmos stickers, and a note saying that I’d won and invented the Desmation Contest.
What should MN math teachers know about Desmos and/or teaching math?
In my opinion, there is a spectrum that most math teachers fall on in terms of teaching style. At one end are those who prefer to teach how to solve math problems, while at the other end are those who prefer to teach the actual math concepts. From experience, effective teachers generally stress the concepts over the problems. Desmos helps a lot with that because students often struggle to understand math if they can’t visualize it. Desmos allows teachers to visually present their lessons, especially when sliders are used.
What do you love to do outside of making cool videos using Desmos?
Outside of Desmos Dude, I play the Piano, run Cross Country in the fall, bike, volunteer at a senior home and a hospital, and do math team. I’m going to try to run the TC Marathon this fall. I’m also obsessed with the Jurassic Park franchise and aerospace technology (can’t wait until SLS launches next year).
What do you love about mathematics?
What fascinates me about math is its myriad of real-life applications. As I’ve gained more experience with Physics and Chemistry (I took the AP versions of those classes last year), I’ve come to realize that it’s not math that I like, but the applications of math to science. In addition, I noticed that I’m only interested in math that I see an application for. For instance, I like calculus because of its power in physics and economics, but I hate number theory because I see no applications (no offense to number theory enthusiasts). So I suppose that a better answer is that I am a scientist who likes math.
A couple of closing notes from Sara:
#1: It is no secret that I love Desmos. In fact I gave a keynote summer 2016 about being an ‘evangelist’ for Desmos. One reason I love Desmos is that they are silly and appreciative enough to give a fake award to students doing amazing things with their product.
#2: You need to check out Desmos Dude YouTube Channel. He has other great animations there using Desmos.
#3: Thank you to the great mathematics teachers in Minnesota, like Edina’s Noah Franske, for inspiring students to be creative with mathematics and introducing them to things like Desmos.
#4: I love the amazing things Minnesota students are creating and doing in our state. Michael and all your friends at Desmos Dude: YOU are amazing! Do you know another student like Michael? I’d love for you to write a story about him/her for MCTM’s Mathbits. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas/submissions.