Student Marbleslides

Last summer at Twitter Math Camp, someone mentioned that they have their students to to teacher.desmos.com to create activities.  Genius.  Pure genius I tell you.

This is what my students came up with.

Next year, I hope to be more intentional about how I use this with students because this year it just sort of happened without any sort of plan whatsoever.  What happened was awesome.  With a little more planning, maybe it could have been even better.  (Those were my thoughts when I started this post.  As I wrote it, I wondered if this ended up being so awesome because students didn’t feel restricted by the guidelines I gave them.  There were no rules.  They could do whatever they wanted.  If I had planned, would my planning have narrowed students’ thinking too much, stopping their creativity?)

The idea came out of desperation more than anything.  I had two 7th graders finish all their assignments super early.  My thoughts were something along the lines of, “What?!  You’re finished?  Already?  With how much time left of class?!?  And you finished the Marbleslides activity from yesterday?  Umm…I guess go to teacher.desmos.com.  Yeah.  Good idea.  Do that!”

I was amazed by what they came up with.  The first couple were basic -what I expected to see.  Then I overheard one ask the other, “How do you make the line stop like they did in the other one?”  The other girl responded, “Oh, I think they used those curly bracket things…” and in a couple of seconds they figured out how to restrict the domain -they didn’t know it was called that though as we had never talked about it.

In what seemed like no time at all, they came up with something like this.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-10-53-pm

After the test that week, they asked if they could work on it more.  Their excitement over it got me thinking, “What if I had the entire class do this?”  “What if I gave those girls more time to work on this?  What would they come up with?”

I had to find out.  We ended up spending 2 days where most all of my students worked on creating Marbleslides.  Part of me felt guilty for “wasting” 2 days on this, but as I walked around, I was in awe of the conversations students were having and the questions they were asking each other.  I didn’t feel that this was really “wasting” 2 days and wished I had done this before the test instead of after.

The first day, I let students go with minimal direction other than to create their own Marbleslides.  If a student raised their hand, my response was typically, “I’ll listen to your question, but I can’t promise I’ll answer it yet.  I want you to work to figure it out.”  When students asked how to “cut off the lines”.  I directed them back to the Marbleslide activity they had done a few days prior to look at those graphs to try to figure it out, and they did.

When I wanted to push students’ creativity a bit, I pulled up an example from one of the girls who had been working on it for a few days.  They had figured out how to restrict the domain, so naturally all students wanted to know how to do that.  Students really took off after that!

The two girls who were the first to start, ended the day figuring out how to make the marbles go in two different directions!  I don’t know that I ever would have come up with that on my own.  I told them their homework assignment was to figure out how to make the marbles shoot back up.*

I was pretty much giddy going through what students had made after the first day, and it only got better after that!  I can’t count the number of times I’ve clicked “launch” on students’ work.

Some students created Marbleslides like they had done in the Desmos activity, where the person playing would need to change the graph to be successful.  However, as students’ graphs became more complex, more students just played around with creating the graphs and leaving them so they would see “Success!” when they clicked launch.  I loved seeing students come up with an idea and figure out how to make it happen.

I also love what Sean does here.  What are other ways you use Marbleslides with students?

Here is the link again to their creations.  I’m just so darn proud of them!

Below I’ve commented on a few of the Marbleslides my students came up with.


This is one from a student who isn’t always confident in what he is doing.  Partway through the second day he goes, “I’m the master at this!”  He had a star WAY down the line on the bottom right and was timing to see how long it would take to see “Success!”  He gave me thoughts for other ways to use Marbleslides.

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 6.36.34 PM.png


This student also intentionally put a star way off to the right so the marbles barely make it.  Again, she’s not always the most confident.  It was fun watching her teach other students how to do things.

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 7.14.53 PM.png


This student had fun getting the orange line just right so the marbles would bounce off the end.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-7-17-05-pm


*Those two girls did their homework.

One of the other math teachers I teach with is the dad of one of the girls.  He showed her how to make a parabola, and the things she came up with after that still amaze me.

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 6.14.41 PM.png

Her dad helped with the orange parabola, and she came up with the rest.

The next day she showed the other girl how to make parabolas.  The other girl was working on this one.  You can’t really see the line on the graph, but it’s the 3rd equation.  She figured out that she needed that little line there because without it, the marbles wouldn’t go to the right when they fell through the two parabolas there.

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