colorful math symbols: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
Activity

Valentine’s Day word problems and Desmos Scientific Calculator

Fall in love with the Desmos Scientific Calculator and word problems!

You will fall in love with this fully accessible digital math tool!

In today’s 21st century classrooms, students begin using digital math tools in elementary school. Desmos is a popular, fully accessible mainstream math tool with many features, including the Desmos Scientific Calculator and the Desmos Graphing Calculator. We hear a lot about the Desmos Graphing Calculator – but are you introducing and using the Desmos Scientific Calculator first? This post will focus on using the Desmos Scientific Calculator to complete these Valentine’s Day word problems, geared for early elementary students; however, word problems for any grade level can be used.

Desmos Scientific Calculator and Desmos Graphing Calculator

Desmos is compatible with computers, tablets and braille notetakers such as the BrailleNote Touch plus. Desmos is available as a free website or free apps for touch screen devices. A scientific calculator is one that performs functions beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. A scientific calculator can handle exponents, logarithms and trig functions as well. Graphing calculators allow you to type in a function, and then show you a graph of that equation.

To complete these word problems, use the Desmos Scientific Calculator. When using the online version of Desmos, access the Math Tools tab at the top of the page, then select Scientific Calculator feature. If using a tablet, download the free Desmos Scientific Calculator app. Note: The Desmos Scientific Calculator and the Desmos Graphing Calculator app are separate apps for mobile devices.

Input equations can be done using a keyboard, 6-key input using a keyboard, on-screen keyboard (for touch screen devices) or a braille display.

Desmos is fully compatible with a braille display, for both Nemeth and UEB. To turn on the Nemeth or UEB:

Select the Settings icon (image of a wrench) > select Braille Mode > select either Nemeth or UEB. Also select the 6 key Braille input, if desired.

Note: When using a tablet, selecting the Braille Mode will make the onscreen keypads disappear.

When braille mode is selected, the screen will show the simulated braille equation above the print equation. The paired braille display will mirror the equation in braille, and students can input the equation using the braille display.

Why use the Desmos Scientific Calculator?

For the simple word problems, you could use a basic calculator; however there are some important advantages of using the Desmos Scientific Calculator. The first advantage is that the Desmos Scientific Calculator can be used as a pre-cursor to the Desmos Graphing Calculator. The layout, commands and concepts are the same. Students who are efficient with the Desmos Scientific Calculator will transition smoothly to using the Desmos Graphing Calculator to create graphs. Best practice indicates that teaching progressive digital tools early using easy math concepts is more successful than waiting to teach the more complex graphing tool later. Keep in mind, Desmos is embedded into high stakes assessments, including SAT exams!

Another advantage of using the Desmos Scientific Calculator over a basic calculator is that the each math expression of a multi-part problem can easily be reviewed. Select the Enter key to create a new line for the next expression. Each expression is a separate line and Desmos has no limit to how many expressions can be created. Students do not have to mentally hold all the numbers in their head!

Use the “ans” key (answer key on the onscreen keyboard or type “ans” if using a keyboard) and the previous answer will be inserted into the desired place in the next expression.

Since you have used the “ans” to insert numbers in the expression, if you make a change in a previous expression, Desmos will automatically include this adjust the following expressions. Wow! Talk about time saving and limiting the possibility of errors!

Young students often have a touch screen device in early elementary – sometimes before they are efficient with entering numbers using a keyboard. And, since Desmos screens on every device are similar, transitioning Desmos skills from a touch screen to a computer is easy!

Desmos Scientific Calculator tutorial

TSBVI’s Coffee Hour has an excellent Desmos Scientific Calculator tutorial video presented by Jason Merrill, a Desmos engineer. The video tutorial, Accessible, Interactive Math with Desmos can be found in the Coffee Hour Archive under the keyword search, Math. The first section of the tutorial is designated to the Desmos Scientific Calculator; the tutorial switches to the Desmos Graphing Calculator at 26:50 minutes.

Coffee Hour math tutorial playlist

Desmos Valentine’s Day word problems activity

These Valentine’s Day word problems are provided here for your convenience. The math problems are geared for early elementary students. Substitute with word problems that are appropriate for your student (grade level), word problems from your student’s homework or choose other seasonal-themed word problems. When introducing how to use the tech – in this case Desmos – choose math problems that are easy for your student so that the student can focus on learning how to use the application. Ideally, young braille students should create and access the braille expressions using a braille display.

Editor’s Note: Using a calculator to complete math word problems is a tool in the tool box. A student should first learn to do computations using manipulatives, an abacus, traditional braille and simple computations can be done in the student’s head. Using Desmos should not replace traditional methods for learning to solve math problems. A calculator can be used as one of many tools to support math. Digital math tools like Desmos should be introduced early with easier concepts and should grow as the student’s math skills progress. Teach skills, including digital math skills, are similar to reading skills: Students learn to read until 3rd grade and then read to learn. Calculator skills are incorporated into the curriculum by 4th grade.

The bonus questions require multi-lines of expressions, perfect for introducing the “ans” key!

  1. Susan made valentines for her friends. She put four heart stickers on each card. She had twenty-five stickers. How many valentines could she make?

Bonus Questions:

Download the Valentine’s Day Word Problems document here.

Desmos Resources

By Diane Brauner

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