Animated Patterns Gallery Walk

A major expectation for our grade 9 applied class is to “connect various representations of a linear relation, and solve problems using the representations.” Early in the spiralled grade 9 course I bring in Fawn’s Visual Patterns website as warm ups. We routinely continue the patterns, create tables, equations, and graphs to show the representations. Students also create their own patterns.


More and more I notice that grade 9 applied students don’t see what I see when looking at patterns (which is definitely not a bad thing). I love hearing all about how students see the patterns. However, I always see the patterns as growing/shrinking…..what I mean is that I see that one shape morphing into a bigger/smaller version. What I’ve heard from some students though is that they see each figure as a separate object, separate things that looks slightly different. I wanted to explore if students seeing the patterns morph instead of seeing them as separate objects could help them with seeing connections among the different forms of the relation.

To start the class I showed this video:

I asked: What do you notice?
Students described the pattern to each other while sitting in pairs. We decided that if the first set of shapes represented figure 1….then every figure after that showed two more shapes being added in. I asked them to go ahead and find out how many shapes were in figure 108.

I gave out the following set of instructions:

  • Create your own animated pattern video
  • Create a tough pattern for your classmates to discover. Ex: Show how the pattern changes in other ways than figure 1 then figure 2 then figure 3. Maybe show how your pattern changes from figure 1 to figure 3 then figure 5.
  • Create a question for your fellow classmates to solve about your pattern.
  • Display your video around the room for a gallery walk. In your display hide the table and equation and answer to your question.

They went to work on building & shooting their patterns. Having them skip figure numbers made them really think about how to create their patterns and how the equations related. Since they were invested in their own patterns they worked hard at creating the tables and equations.

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After they created their video they were to create a display for a gallery walk. The gallery walk gave us a purpose to practice finding rates of change, determining equations, generating equations and solving problems. We wanted to see the creative patterns from our classmates and see if we could solve each others problems. Like a challenge! Each display showed the video and then under flap of paper was an answer to a problem with a table and equation. Students left their display and visited each others displays with a recording sheet.



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We spent two class days working on building the videos/patterns and the gallery walk. There are a variety of stop animation apps on the app store. My students used various different ones. Some students used iMovie.

I felt students were stronger on knowing why we need to find the rate of change for our equations and not just take the first difference value. The one-two combo of actually building the patterns and then making them move through animation built a deeper understanding of the representations than just completing a worksheet!!





MEL3E Day 24 – Shortest Routes with Desmos

Warm Up: Estimation 180

Since last week we did the 1/4 cup of candy corn today we looked at estimating how many would be in the big bag.

We remembered that there was 19 candies in the 1/4 cup. For their too high and too low today I also had them find how many scoops of candy that would be. For example, Joey said too high might be 1000. So I had them determine how many scoops of 19 that would be. I then asked if this now still seems too high?

After all students had voiced their best guess and how many scoops it would be I showed the answer:

I asked them how Mr. Stadel determined the answer of 893 if he didn’t count. I let them study the info shown. Shanice piped up, “there was 47 scoops….so 19 x 47 = 893.”

Today we switched strands from Saving & Borrowing to Travel and Transportation. They all got out an iPad and went to this Desmos Activity.

The first problem has students drawing a route from our school to a Tim Horton’s. I asked them to try to draw the shortest route possible.


This had them hooked. Each wanted their route to be the shortest. screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-11-28-30-am


I took time here to show different routes students had drawn.


As a class we moved to the next screen where we estimated the actual distance.  A student pointed out that the map image had a scale in the bottom right corner. A small section was labeled to be 200m. They used that to help estimate the distance for their routes. But we needed a better way to determine who would have drawn the shortest route! Moving to screen 3 we used the points to determine the “map distance” for each section of our route.


Students filled in a description of each leg of their route and the distance in map units.


Click to download a copy.

We measured the scale at the bottom to create a scale factor for this map.


I demonstrated how to use the scale factor to determine the actual distances in metres and kilometres. We went around the room voicing how far our routes were to see who had the shortest!! Moving to the 4th screen showed what Google would say.

That was problem 1 out of 5 in this Desmos activity. We started problem 2 but did not finish it. Tomorrow’s work!!

Having the students guess the shortest route first allows them to try something informal before we try to formalize it with actual distances. Desmos’ sketch tool allows them to draw, erase, undo, and re-draw those routes. The ability to wipe away their trials is so valuable. It allows them to take risks. It allows them to get deeper into their understanding.

Give it a try. I feel I’m missing some extension questions, or questions that dig a little deeper. Can you help me out and leave me some feedback in the comments? Thanks.


Pentomino Puzzles

A few years ago I was introduced to a series of activities (through my then districts math consultant) that builds a driving need for students to createscreen-shot-2016-09-30-at-8-14-39-am, simplify, and solve linear equations. I used the activity for a few years in a row while I taught grade 9 academic. Since then I had forgotten all about it (funny how that goes) UNTIL NOW!

The activity ran as a series of challenge puzzles around Pentominoes and a giant hundred grid chart.

Activity 1: Explore

Ask students in groups to choose this tile and place it on the hundreds chart so that it covers a sum of 135. The task seems so simple to start but unpacks some great math.

Allow them to determine this sum anyway they like.


I circulate and listen to their strategies. I give them very little feedback at this point. After a few minutes I choose some of those groups I heard interesting strategies to share..then let any other group share out their strategy.

img_2198Activity 2: Keep Exploring

I have them use the same tile and try again. Place the tile so that it covers a sum of 420. Listen to those strategies! Most groups that didn’t have a strategy before will try to adopt a strategy they heard last round. At this point most students will catch the strategy “If I divide the sum by 5, being like the average then I should have the middle number in the shape.”

This is where I stop and have a formal discussion as to why dividing by 5 here works? Will this always work? Will this always work with other shapes? What other shapes will this work with then?

We formalize the strategy.

Our big problem to start is not knowing where to place the tile. Let’s say I label the middle square n. What will the square immediately to the right of n always be? The left? The top? The bottom? Have them check this out by placing the tile repeatedly back on the grid.

Now let’s add all of those expressions up


The middle square must be a multiple of 5!!! I have them try this strategy out by throwing out another sum and have them place the tile.

Look at another tile!


We go back and outline that we could have chosen a different square to label n. Which results in a new equation and solves for different value…..but results in the same placement of the tile!!


We continue by me having them select different tiles, giving them sums, having them create equations and solving them. I love how hands-on this lesson is. Holding the tiles adds some “realness” which I feel drives the need to solve these equations.


this year when I remembered this activity I wasn’t sure I still had the tiles kicking around (I found them later). I immediately made a digital version with Explain Everything.


The digital version gives each student their own copy and while working in groups can chat about what strategy worked and what didn’t. Before on the paper version….only one student could hold the tile. Also, when students have to voice their strategy through Explain Everything they have to have careful thought. They think about the words they want to use. We this careful thought they get to make their thinking visible for me!

One new addition to the activity I get to make here is that they can create their own pentomino…..and then their own puzzle to share with their classmates.



Since then I also created the activity with some help from the team over at Desmos


Click to access and rune the activity

I love their new conversation tools….I get to pause the class and discuss when needed!


Students can even sketch their new tile and create an expression to match! screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-24-03-am


Desmos even added some nice extension questions. Love it! screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-24-23-am


In the future the next time I explore this lesson I see a blend of hands on tiles with digital support. I think having the best of both worlds here can pack a powerful 1-2-3-4-5 punch!

Pick your favourite!

Download the Explain Everything Pentomino Puzzles .xpl file. 

Access the Desmos Activity



Match My Graph & Crowd Sourcing Challenges

Here’s a quick synapsis of an activity from my Advanced Functions class with transformations of trig functions.

We used a Custom Polygraph from Desmos to generate talk/discussion on key properties of trig functions (Students have previously dealt with trig functions in grade 11).

I overheard students asking questions about x-intercepts, period, and amplitude. Awesome!

We took a note on key properties of the sine function and cosine function (We ran out of time for Tangent). 

Let the struggle begin!

Students were then asked to work through this Match My Trig Function Activity built using Desmos’ Activity Builder.

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Each slide is set up as a challenge. They are to write a sinusoidal function that “overlaps” the black target function. Students will have to use their memory or trial and error to discover how the parameters change the graph.

Watching the dashboard I can ensure their struggle is productive. I can jump in with feedback when I see they need it.

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Here’s the best part, once they completed all 12 challenges they created their own trig function matching challenge and shared it out on a Padlet board. We had crowd sourced a bank of challenges to work through!  The students didn’t hold back either… They wanted to create hard ones to push their friends.

See the challenge – Live Board Below

Can’t see this board? Click here

That’s where class ended. When we came in the next day  and they all choose at least 5 peer challenges to complete…. And that’s when the taunting began!

To end it off we took a note based on their discoveries of how the parameters changed the graphs.

Click here to create your own Custom Activity Builder or here to create your own Padlet board.