Desmos in Science

Published: 2017-04-21 08:46 |

Category: Technology | Tags: teaching

I’ve wanted to try the Desmos activity builder for a long time, so I finally did. We were finishing up the nervous system, so I grabbed a graph of an action potential and went for it. Here’s a live student link if you want to give it a try.

I set up a few slides with an image of an action potential superimposed on a graph. I then asked students to identify different regions on the graph using the activity input tools.

The really powerful moment came when I revealed their work superimposed on the question. individually, it was easy to see in the dashboard that most people had the right shape.

Superimposed, we could really dive into the differences between the sketches.

At the AP level, we focused on the scales and how it lines up with the chemical concentration in the cells. I’m also glad I had this question first because it immediately helped me target students who were struggling more than others.

From there, I used the same graph but superimposed a horizontal line and asked students to mark the rest state voltage as well as the threshold voltage. Again, the superimposed image gave students a lot to think about.

As a lesson, I’m happy with how it went. Students were able to self-assess and gain insight from seeing multiple, simultaneous responses. I’m thinking hard about how to break the content barrier and get teachers to look at it’s utility for feedback and metacognition.

As a teacher, what could I have done better? What would you have done differently? Can you help me get a true graph of the action potential (ahemplease?).

(Both screenshots are mine, names are anonymized).


Lia Wahl

I am interested in the Desmos activity you talk about here, but after trying the live student link, I see it is expired. Would you be willing to share the original activity with me? It looks like a great use of Desmos in a science setting!

Thank you in advance!

Brian Bennett

Hi Lia,

Here's the teacher link you can use.

I’d be curious to see how you’d modify it for your class if you’re inclined to share back.

Lia Wahl


Thanks, I really appreciate it! I am actually a math teacher teaching a PD session to the science department about the Activity Builder, so I was looking for some examples of activities science teachers had already tested out in their classrooms to use as examples. In the workshop, I was hoping to explore a few different possibilities for using the graphing features of Activity Builder, and this is an awesome example of the possibilities available.

Thank you!

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