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Archive for April, 2014

Why I wish I’d used Function Carnival as an Algebra student by Sakshi Multani

April 1st, 2014 by Alice Fisher

Function Carnival is an interactive, educational game by Desmos which helps students understand and create functions. The game includes three activities that depict animated real-life scenarios featuring a canon man and a roller coaster which users must then recreate by drawing an appropriate graph. For example, the first task is to “Draw a graph of Cannon Man’s height vs. time.”  Each activity has a drawing and a writing section that helps students grasp the concept of functions, an idea which is vital for Algebra students to master in order to succeed in higher level math courses.

Functions have never been my forte, but Function Carnival makes understanding them easy, even intuitive by asking users to model real-world situations with graphs.  Through each exercise, students’ graphing skills become stronger and they are more able to understand what each dip and curve on the function represents by drawing out their models step-by-step and correcting any errors. The writing portions of the activities put the graphs into perspective by encouraging students to analyze already given functions and to either correct them or explain a concept that they demonstrate. Using this module was like learning functions all over again, only better, this time in a way that stuck. Writing down the ideas forming in their heads helps students not only with memorization, but with comprehension of those ideas.

Teachers have the option of choosing between the Basic Carnival (for algebra students) and Advanced Carnival (for calculus students).  Within the Advanced Carnival which I completed, there was a section depicting a velocity vs. time graph.  The graph had both positive and  negative velocity, so that the challenge was to apply the concept of acceleration instead of speed to my interpretation.

 Despite its functionality (pardon the pun), the activities are complex and a bit difficult to get the hang of at first so that the activity definitely needs teacher guidance.  I don’t think this is an activity that should be assigned for independent practice for students.  Also, the program also does not offer immediate feedback on the writing portions.  However, the teacher is able to view all student responses – both the graphs and the written responses – so that she or he is able to give feedback to individual students.  This video shows what the teacher would see on his/her screen as the students complete the graphs.

 As an added bonus, the program offers a do-it-yourself bonus challenge at the very end to reinforce the students’ knowledge which is “On a blank piece of paper, create your own graph.  Label the y-axis.  Draw the graph.  Then write the story it describes.”  The challenge is a great way for students to apply what they learned in the activities to a scenario of their own creation, both sparking their creativity and prompting them to concrete the knowledge they gained. All in all, Function Carnival gets a five star rating from me.  While I still wish my algebra teacher had introduced it to me back in eighth grade, I’m nevertheless glad to be recommending this fantastic program to you.

About the author:
Sakshi Multani is a junior in high school currently taking precalculus, a course she grinds her teeth through, but which, she has to admit, will likely prove its importance in the long run. Sakshi enjoys reading, writing, and teaching, and she hopes that when she is older she will find a career that will impact others’ lives for the better.