Desmos Activity Builder – Intro to Unit Rate

 In August of 2015,

Desmos launched it’s newest feature, Activity Builder.

  1. Activity Builder gives teachers the freedom to create their own computer based activity to focus on a concept of choice.
  2. It’s a great formative assessment tool.
  3. From their computer, Teacher’s can view everyone’s responses and therefore provide immediate feedback to students.
  4. The interactive piece motivates students to participate.
  5. Student participation comes in 3 forms (for this specific activity):
    1. Manipulating a graph  (Student discovery)
    2. Submitting a response  (Student analysis)
    3. Whole group discussion (Teacher facilitated)


 Prior to the lesson

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 10.37.05 AM

  1. Use the link:  Intro to Unit Rate, press the preview button and go through the activity as a student
  2. Create a general outline of discussion points needed to be addressed
  3. Anticipate both correct and incorrect responses.
  4. Develop questions to guide and extend student learning.


The Activity

Slides 1 & 2:  Students are to slide the black dot and take note of what they notice.  This is a low entry task.  All students can manipulate the graph and state an observation and/or ask a question.

Notes:  Students liked the animation aspect of the graph.  I read through their responses quickly and jotted down names of students who wrote interesting observations or asked a great question.  I organized their names in the order I wished the information to be shared.  Then called on the students to share out what they wrote.   

Slides 3 & 4: Kicking it up a notch.  Students are to explain how the black dot and red line relate to the labels.

Notes: After slide 3, I asked groups to discuss how the dot and line related to the labels of Dollars and Ice Creams.  Students needed this processing time before they entered a response.

I repeated the same process of scanning responses, picking out a couple, organizing them, and finally calling on students to read their entries to the class.  The submitted responses gave me great insight to my students’ mathematically thinking, vocabulary use and writing skills.

Slides 5 & 6: Slide 5 is meant to generate conversation.  Students are to move the line to represent a ridiculous price for an ice cream. They enter the price in slide 6. During whole group discussion,  students can defend their answers.

Notes:   Students loved this slide.  Many zoomed in until the intervals had exponents, but they could only submit a unit rate that they could understand and verbalize.  Students enjoyed seeing their classmates’ ridiculous ice cream prices scroll up on the screen.  As a class, we discussed the concept of a unit rate.

From there, I began to touch on the difference between a rate and a unit rate. A few students per class had already pointed out that the red line represented the price for different amounts of ice cream.  I picked one of the submitted unit rates and then as a class built a chart showing the various prices for ice creams.

Slide 7 & 8:  Students are required to analyze the line to find another rate for the nachos.

Notes: To emphasis the difference between rate and unit rate, I recorded student responses on the white board.



Day of the Lesson

  1. Click the link:  Intro to Unit Rate
  2. Click on:  Start this activity to get the 4 character class code.
    1. I use a different class code for each class.
  3. Have students go to: and enter in the class code

During the Lesson

  1. Teachers work from the link that provides the class code.
  2. Once students start the activities, you’ll see their responses either as a thumbnail (response to a graph) or a list of entries (answer from a question).
  3. Since this activity has 8 slides, there’ll be 8 slides that the teacher can focus on.
  4. The blue circle in the upper right hand corner of a slide tells how many students are currently working on that slide.  Based on this picture, there are 2 students who have entered the class code of j8dr.  Austin is working on slide 1 while Maria is on slide 2.
  5.                  Capture3
  6. When focusing on a specific slide, teachers can toggle between Thumbs & Overlay.
  7. Thumbs allow teachers to view individual work while the Overlay option displays the responses from the entire class.
  8. Student names do appear on the thumbnails.  I wish Desmos’ Activity Builder had a Teacher View/Student View toggle option like Plickers and Verso, for there are times when both teachers and students would prefer responses to be anonymous.  I have emailed them this request.

Capture          Capture1

           Thumb view of slide 1                                 Overlay view of slide 1


Both the Thumb and Overlay view.

When students have to submit a written response, the thumb and overlay view are the same.

9.  Run the activity in way that works for you.  At any point, you can stop the class and discuss their responses to a particular slide.  Then go back and let students continue working.

10. Enjoy!!


For more Desmos related activities and posts:


About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
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2 Responses to Desmos Activity Builder – Intro to Unit Rate

  1. Pingback: Combining Like Terms w/ Desmos | Communicating Mathematically

  2. Pingback: Dance Dance Transversal – A Guide | Communicating Mathematically

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