Online Teaching with Desmos: Self Checking Tasks

UPDATE: July 24th, 2020

Howdy new-to-this blog post friends. I’ve noticed a lot more traffic here so I wanted to clarify a few things about this self-checking template that I made: It was made out of a need to continue the formative assessment structure I already used in class, NOT for summative assessments. My school, when we shifted to remote learning, went asynchronous, and I had students across 21 hours worth of time-zones spread out all over the world. I needed a quick way to get the instant feedback my students were used to from doing card stacks and other self-checking in class practice of content (see my blog post here on my 1/2 and 1/2 structure for a face to face classroom). So I guess that’s my long-winded way of saying, “I threw this together quick with little regard to pedagogy” cause the quick shift to pandemic remote learning was HARD.

I wanted to clarify the above because I think people, myself included in this for what it is worth, have been using these templates in a way that doesn’t really align to the best practices of Desmos usage. I made these templates in a rush. Using the CL knowledge I had to survive pandemic remote learning when I, naively, thought we’d get back to campus in a few weeks. I really did think these templates would get used 3 or 4 times, and then we’d all be back together and mathing in my classroom. I was wrong. We are not over Covid, and we teachers need to find ways to use Desmos remotely AND still uphold using Desmos as more than a worksheet with solutions you know? What I love most about Desmos is it is interactive with my students, I want to think critically on when I want Desmos to be a checker instead of a collaborator with my students learning.

I made these templates before Desmos introduced the chat feature (which is amazing!!). I didn’t know that I’d be able to communicate with my students INSIDE a Desmos AB when I pieced together the CL to make this happen. Desmos evolved, and so will my use of Desmos next school year.

So, if it helps, here are my thoughts on planning for the 2020-2021 school year, which will be a combo of hybrid and online in all likelihood, and in which I will retire the templates from my teaching practices (I’m not deleting this post, or the templates because I believe in modeling growth in learning and changing of ones mind):

It is with that, if I haven’t convinced you that we can do better as math teachers than just my self-checking templates, you can keep on reading friend. I get it. Sometimes you just need kids to know if they did a problem correctly. But know that I’m not going to use these as is next year because I think I can do better by my students and I encourage you to join me in thinking on that. How can we use self-checking code for a better-than-worksheet-checkers?

Howdy internet friends,

It’s been a while. That’s mostly because I haven’t really been overtly proud of anything new I’m trying this year. I’ll blame it on having spent most of the semester solo-parenting a toddler, but its really just that when life gets hectic this blog is the first thing I let go of.

That being said, right now everything is feeling very uncertain with the Covid-19 pandemic and I find comfort in helping people. So here it goes, I want to offer to the internet world something that’s been helpful for my classroom when I want to leave students with work, that provides feedback, when I am absent.

I do a lot of Card Stacks (see @MathEqualsLove blog post here) in class so students can practice new skills and get immediate feedback on how they are doing. Due to parenting a toddler and needing to be out often I started creating Desmos Activity Builder versions of these card stacks. I thought that perhaps people would like a template they can copy and edit to create their own.

Desmos Activity Builder Self-Checking Template: Card Stack Version

If you are semi-familiar with the computer coding access that you have in Desmos called Computational Layer, then you know the drill. Go ahead and edit away and be sure to adjust the input CL’s correct value.

If you’d like a tutorial, keep on reading:

Step 1:

Log into Teacher Desmos and click on the arrow by your name in the upper right corner.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.22.27 PM

Step 2:

Check your Desmos Lab Settings. Click on the triangle by your name. Then click Desmos Labs. We need the Desmos CL box to be on (checked)

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.23.23 PM

Step 3:

Okay, now navigate to my activity here. We want to create a copy for you to edit

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.24.39 PM

And you will be redirected to a new window with the editing features of a Desmos Activity Builder.

Step 4:

I made the activity so you only need to adjust two parts on each slide to have the self-checking feature work. The first thing we need to adjust is the CORRECT ANSWER. Click on the gear by the input component.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.25.44 PM

You will see a new window appear for editing Desmos Computational Layer code that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.26.16 PM

You only need to change the BLUE number. Please change the blue number 1 to what ever you want your answer to be for the question. Once you’ve completed the correctness edit, click Done. 

Step 4.5: UPDATE from 3/18

So as I am making an activity I’m realizing that I want directions in the note component. Here’s how to do that:

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 2.28.39 PM

Then replace  the text “Enter 1” with what ever you want the directions to be for the students. Leave the code at the bottom alone.

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 2.31.18 PM

Step 5:

Adding your question. This AB assumes that you will be taking screen shots of questions and posting the image inside of the graph component. So have all screen shots ready to go before you continue.

Click on the Graph Component

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.27.04 PM

And then add the image to the graph. You will need to re-center the image and scale so it can be seen.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 1.27.35 PM

Click done once you are happy with the image. Congrats. You’ve edited one slide!

Step 6:

Do all of that again for all of the slides you want to use. If you don’t need 10 questions, delete the slides you won’t use.


Duplicate a slide, then you will need to adjust the LABELS on the components (note how mine said input9, you’d have to make an input11 for slide 11) and then update the numbers in the Cl for the NOTE (click the gear by the note) accordingly.

Have questions? Tweet me. @JennSWhite

10 thoughts on “Online Teaching with Desmos: Self Checking Tasks

  1. What if I want to have the students input an expression for their answer and not just a numerical value, what do i need to change the code to?


  2. Having trouble getting it to recognize a fraction as the correct answer if I give kids a math type answer box, any suggestions?

    Also, in the self correcting is there a way to have it respond to kids when given a multiple choice box?


      • Still can’t seem to get it to understand LaTex answer such as (3,0) or a fraction. Have used latex from graphing screen and from Equatio and also math answer box.

        This is what I have tried for CL, plus all versions of backticks no backticks, quotations no quotations etc.

        correct = input1.submitted and input1.latex = “`\left(3,0\right)`”
        correct: correct

        Any help would be awesome


      • Also wondering if there is a way to get fractions and special characters in the CL layer of a note?


  3. Tina I am having the same trouble. Trying for a correct answer of sqrt(3)/2. Tried Latex with back ticks around it. not working. Do I need to change the command “this.numericvalue”? Also cannot get it to recognize fractions or decimals even with your suggestion Jenn. Thanks in advance!


    • The templates I made are for checking numerical values only. Not expressions. To check a LaTex string (like square root of 3 or 2/5) you need more sophisticated coding to check for correctness. As the computer may mark a student wrong if they add a space in the middle of a string.


    • just did an advanced webinar with Desmos and figured it out

      if you want to recognize it as correct in the input script, double all the backslashes but don’t need the backticks just use the regular quotations

      if you want it to recognize it in the content of your note surround it with backticks and double all backslashes

      hope this helps


      • While that works, Desmos DISCOURAGES this. If a student types “2x +5” and you coded “2x+5” (without the space) the student will be marked wrong.


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