Is Open For All Your Graphing Story Needs

Five years ago I released a collection of 10 fifteen-second videos that helped orient my students to abstract and graphical representations.

Kids like them.

Last year I asked you guys to submit your own graphs and stories which I edited together by hand.

Today, in a joint collaboration with the BuzzMath team, we’re releasing 24 of those videos for immediate download and use in your classrooms, all tagged by content and math. (ie. “a step function about ponies”)

You guys were way more creative than I had anticipated:

Call for Submissions (Sort Of)

I’m never gonna do what I did a year ago ever again. Editing all those videos by hand took months of my time and probably a year off my life. But I would like to know what holes you see in this library and what we can do to plug them.

Do we need more videos with periodic functions? Do we need more videos featuring bacon? Suggest them in the comments. If it’s a good idea and you can film the video, I’ll make your graphing story on a case-by-case basis. This thing will grow larger and awesomer.

BTW. Be sure to drop a tweet @BuzzMath thanking them for their killer work here.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. These are great. Some of the videos could make use of a scale superimposed over the action. For example, in the elevation of the plane video, I found it difficult to track the elevation while the video was playing. In the volume of water video where there was a volume scale on the container which made it much easier to keep track of the values.

    I’m looking forward to playing these in class.

  2. Awesome awesome awesome.

    Thanks for your commitment to make this happen Dan; I’ll let you knwo how it goes when I use these in a couple of weeks!


  3. Thank you so much for working on this amazing site. This is such a straightforward and engaging resource for teaching students how to make, read, and explain graphs. I can see so many misconceptions coming up and being dispelled. I’m very excited to share it with other teachers and try it out myself.

  4. Michael Fenton

    December 5, 2012 - 8:58 am -

    Dan, you’re amazing and generous. Thanks for the resource, and for helping to keep me dissatisfied with my current practice. I skipped out on participating a year ago (lack of time/ideas), but after seeing the full set I’ve got two ideas I can’t wait to film:

    IDEA 1
    Setting: Standing on top rung of ladder, swinging yo-yo (fully
    extended) in giant circular arc
    Graph 1: Height of yo-yo off ground (steady swinging, or variable speed?)

    IDEA 2
    Setting: Pogo stick
    Graph 1: bounces as a function of time (piecewise)
    Graph 2: height of hat off ground (small quick jumps, then bigger slower jumps, then jump off and throw hat)

    Now the only problem is finding the time to do the filming. (I have a 3 year old boy, a 20 month old boy, and just welcomed identical twin girls into the world.)

    Say I wanted to try my hand at the video editing (complete with sweet text effects, superimposed solution at the end, etc.). You wouldn’t have a template you’d be willing to share, would you?


  5. Awesome site! My 5th graders absolutely loved this today and started talking about videos they could create for the class to solve. I got my IT person for the district on board to work with the class on creating and editing movies in imovie on the ipads! We are all very excited!

    Scott and Michele – the site was blocked at school for me bc of the Twitter link (absolutely CRAZY, I know). I had it unblocked. Don’t know if that helps your problem at all, but thought I would share!

  6. How, this is great.

    Last week, I tried to have my model hair length versus time in this timelapse video over a whole year:

    As a hook, I use some clips of the guy with the Guiness World Record for the longest hair. This lesson was inspired by a Mathalicious lesson, but I wanted my students to actually come up with the equation instead of just graphing the situation.

    We measured the distance from his chin-level to the hair by his left ear at 2 points, and tried to create the equation for the line. It didn’t work that great, because the predicted y-intercept wasn’t that close to the real distance on Jan. 1. Apparently, this guy’s hair curls erratically from day-to-day. Has anyone tried any cool time-lapse videos of hair before and had success with this?

  7. Thanks for all of your work Dan (and BuzzMath)! These are great resources. I shared them with some of the pre-service students I worked with today and they made some nice reflections on how these graphing experiences could help deepen student understanding of two variable relationships and address common misconceptions (ex: that a graph has to resemble the motion seen in a video).

    A few things I’d like to see added would be to include a few of the “classics” from your original post. Specifically “Elevation Vs. Time #2 (going down the exterior staircase)”, “Elevation Vs. Time #5 (going up and down the staircase in a circular path)”, and the series of three videos that show you jogging up the same incline and graph it in reference to elevation, distance, and speed. It would be nice to have a few more options that have the same video graphed in a few different ways. This really helps kids to realize the importance of paying attention the the variables and their different relationships. I didn’t see any videos with speed on the new site which can be a beneficial relationship for students to reason through.

    Thanks again for sharing these…. oh…one last idea… maybe you could add a video where some guy is hammering a nail and then hits his hand at the end…. pain vs. time…yeah, that sounds like a fabulous idea :)

  8. @Adam, good idea. I’m kinda bummed out by how lousy the video was back then compared to now, but I’ll probably pull the original ten back into the mix at some point.

    @Michael, I like the ideas. I’d be happy to edit those whenever you can get me footage. (No rush, obv. Be a dad, etc.)

  9. What a great update.

    I had a go at videoing some scenarios, but lacked the technical know how to develop them. I videoed a wind turbine and managed to get a graph of height of blade above ground against time using Autograph and lots of screen shots.

    I also have a Scaletrix car going around a simple circuit.

  10. Forget the utter coolness of the videos and ease of the web site. This is so on the mark pedagogically. It enables students to leap, not just climb, from concrete to abstract and, just as importantly, from abstract back to concrete (e.g. interrupting step-wise). This rocks! Thanks for all the blood, sweat and tears.

  11. Great idea, great videos, thank you very much Dan!

    A follow-up: make students record their own videos, and play them in front of their classmates. Make them draw the solution and explain it to those who don’t get it.

  12. I’m confused by some of these, because it seems like the graph in the answer doesn’t match up with the video. Like in the swing set, you don’t jump off until second 11, but the graph has you jump off at second 8.

  13. James, I noticed similar issues. I think some of it is from limitations with the software used to make the graphs and some of it is just the creator’s interpretation. However, either way I think it would be fantastic if a student would be able to explain why they have an answer they think is more accurate than the one in the video. It would certainly demonstrate Math Practice 3 and I imagine that there will be a lot of room for interpretation with all of these graphs.

  14. Any ideas on a set of free online tools that students could use to create something similar? Shooting the video should be easy enough but creating the animated charts seems a little tricky.

  15. @Robert & James, these answer graphs should be taken as only loosely authoritative. Your students should feel free to argue against whatever graph is presented, call the author mistaken, etc.

    @Jim, I know of no such software. The BuzzMath team and I kicked around the idea of making a place where people could make their own videos but our market test (a survey we asked people to fill out) didn’t indicate that it would come anywhere near paying for itself.