[Future Text] Des-man

a/k/a Great Moments in Digital Networked Math Curricula

You Should Check Out

Des-man: a Desmos Labs Project.

What It Is

First, you had Fawn Nguyen’s assignment where students created a face using the Desmos graphing calculator.


Students reviewed conics and domain and range. That was a blast for a lot of reasons. Now Desmos has created a system where the teacher can quickly see the creation of the faces in real-time and use filters to sort quickly through student work in productive ways.


Why It’s Important

Des-man explores the potential of networked devices in math class.

You could download the Desmos iOS app, flip off your iPad’s Internet connection, and still have a good time creating your Des-man. If the experience of using a digital math curriculum doesn’t get any better when you turn on the Internet, it is wasting the Internet.

With Des-man, an Internet connection lets you see all your friends’ Des-men instantly, as they’re being drawn. It lets the teacher see the Des-men quickly too and then select and sequence them in productive ways.

We have here a math activity for networked devices that doesn’t waste the network. That shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it is.

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. I was grumbling about this very issue to myself while riding my bike through the Scottish countryside. I had just noticed that iOS 7 seems to be more serious about just sharing things locally and directly through the network with AirDrop, which is great but, jeez, why has it been so hard to just pass something to the person next to you for so long?!?

  2. Hey Dan! Since you know the folks at Desmos . . . any chance you can talk them into getting line of best fit / slope feature? Still looking for that on the iPad in freshman physics . . . it’d be awesome! Thanks for all you do!

  3. Could it be possible to go bigger? Why am I restricted to looking at faces from my class? Could I enter my face into a worldwide ranking system so people all over vote up the best face?

  4. Interesting timing – last night I just created a similar exercise for my students using Desmos (not networked, that’s a nice touch). My students are “restricted” to straight lines right now (that’s all they know how to graph) so I created a stick figure with straight lines for them to “duplicate”.

    I wanted them to duplicate the exact figure to they could practice come up with specific target equations: “How do I get the line at exactly that angle” and so on.

    For those that are curious:


  5. “With Des-man, an Internet connection lets you see all your friends’ Des-men instantly, as they’re being drawn.”

    In a room full of 9th graders you could set a clock by how fast the first penis showed up. Just saying.

  6. Maybe I’m too pessimist, but it looks like Desmos won’t be for free too long, it’s too awesome…

    Something similar happened with Wiris Calculator, they suddenly announced it would need a subscription fee…

    Does anybody know if it will keep free for long, just like Geogebra?

  7. Kate: we were certain that as soon as we started featuring “recent” graphs we’d get genitalia of all forms. Either we don’t give students enough credit for their restraint, or graphing a recognizable penis is pretty tricky.

    Maria: Do we seem like Wiris? Ouch. I believe that comments on blog.mrmeyer.com are binding under the US Constitution: We won’t ever require payment to use desmos.com/calculator.

    That said, not everything we do can be free. We charge partners (desmos.com/partners), and we’re experimenting with paid goodies and content. But the core calculator will not just remain free as long as Desmos draws breath, it will also keep getting better.

  8. Used Des-man today. It was great, but I have one suggestion for the dashboard. You could add a reporting feature that identifies students who have used a compound inequality such as x^2-5 < y < -2, which looks like a smiling mouth. That was a separate level of complexity that only a few students got to today, and I would have liked to be able to identify them quickly and send others to them for hints on how to do it.