Hurry Up/Kill Time Math Classes – How Desmos Can Help

Seth Godin brought up an interesting idea: If you think about it, everyone at the airport is in one of two modes. In a hurry, or killing time. You can imagine it right now! That impatient person in the TSA line just waiting to speed walk to the gate, or the group of people jockeying for position to board the plane first. On the other hand the only other people are just waiting around to speed up!

This is also happening in math classrooms. Both teachers and students.
Students want to hurray through lessons, get the homework done, move onto the next thing. Or they are just killing time. Teachers are hurrying up to start lessons, give examples, get the ideas out, give the homework. Some teachers are just waiting around until the day ends.

But this is not all students. Some are focused on learning to learn. And this is not all teachers. Many like you and me are actively making moments that matter in our students lives. Let’s help others slow down the “Hurry up to wait” classrooms.

One way I do this is to create and share those moments that matter through enhancing classroom discussions through a tech tool that creates discussions, not limits them like so many others do.



Let’s Slow down the hurryers and energize the waiters. Let’s enhance our classrooms together. Check out a list of over 25 of my custom Desmos activities plus check out the hundreds of activities on  like the Pentomino Puzzles activity.

Here is a transcript of the audio in the video:

Hey, I’m Jon Orr, a math teacher from Chatham Ontario, Canada.

I’ve been on a mission lately to make moments in my math class memorable. Like you remember specific moments in your life because they were meaningful. Something that sticks with you. When I think back to my experiences as a math student I remember grade 4. I thought I was a master multiplier. My teacher even gave me stickers for doing extra work….and these stickers weren’t just normal stickers they were the ones that stand off the page like puffy stickers. You know, the ones that make the book not close all the way.

That sticks with me because of the feelings that go with the moments. I want to create those for my students; not with stickers, but memorable math moments. Like moments that students will remember years later. Like I have students years after my course still remember the toy car lesson we did or the pentomino puzzle solving lesson! I want this for every student in my class.

One tool that I think does this amazingly well is Desmos. And I’m not talking about just the online calculator. I’m talking about the earth shattering online activities that they create for us to teach with for free!

What I love is that each activity they build helps me make those moments. And they do that by allowing my students to show their thinking in interesting ways, they allow me quickly assess on the fly the abilities in my room…and they allow my students to have discussions! The tech creates discussions!

Here is one task that is great. Pentomino puzzles.

The activity is super easy to get into, just move this tile around until you cover a sum of 65. You can see students can easily share their thinking and strategies. I have kids use 1 device for 2 people so they can talk about their strategies. It keeps that collaboration I’m looking for. But then each new task builds towards solving the problems using an algebraic approach! I get kids to learn how to solve equations through this puzzling type of game!

As a teacher I get to see what student is on what screen, allowing me to help kids that need help and allow kids to move forward that are ready for it.

I can pause the screen on everyone’s devices so we can discuss strategies. The software is built to enhance classroom culture and discussions, not limit them like other tech does.

So one recommendation for you to try to make math moments matter for all your students is to explore the activities on


Find out more on desmos over on my website where I share all my custom made desmos activities and many other resources and ideas for your math classroom.

Take care.



10 Tools in My Teaching Day

Looking to stay productive? Wonder what tools are out there to keep organized? I’ve tried a lot of tools, apps, websites over the last few years; some I kept using and some I tossed away. Here are the 10 tools that I use on a regular basis in my teaching in a video blog format!! If video is not for you scroll below to read the transcript.

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This was my first go at a video post and I would love to know what you think. Think I should keep doing it? Think I should stick to just text? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email. For real, I would love your feedback!!

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My Favourite Desmos Feature

If you follow me you know Desmos is my go-to software for graphing and calculator functions with my students. I'm pretty excited to let you know that coming soon I'll release a 3 part video series on using Desmos in the classroom to enhance classroom discussions. To get started I wanted to share my favourite Desmos feature: The Moveable Point Watch the 1 min 44 second video: Can't see the video? Click here to see the post page. Sign Up below to get notified when the 3 part series goes live. You won't want to miss it!! p.s. Here are the activities seen in the video. The Great Collide Charge: Edited Sugar Sugar Pondering Percent Pentomino Puzzles Or You can also download the free Multi-Touch Book from iBooks to use on your iPad Beautiful Functions  

3 New Desmos Activities: Talkers & Drawers

Goals of the activity:

Students will:
  • Begin to recognize characteristics of linear, quadratic, or periodic functions.
  • Generate a need to use proper vocabulary around linear, quadratic, or periodic functions.

Specific recommendations:

  • The “talker” cannot use their hands and should keep them behind his/her back. This will help the student be careful and direct the language they choose to describe the graph.
  • The “drawer” cannot talk.
  • Set a time limit. Possibly 3-4 minutes for the “talker” to describe the graph to the “drawer” with the goal to reproduce the graph.
  • Consider having all the “drawers” reveal the graphs at the same time for dramatic effect.
There are three different versions of the activity based on topic
Links to the three activities:

What the student experiences:

Once students choose a role tell them “Talkers, your goal is describe the graph perfectly to the drawer. Drawers, your goal is to listen carefully and without talking try to match the talkers graph. You will have 3 to 4 minutes for each graph.
When the time is up, tell all the drawers to click the REVEAL button at the same time to see how close your sketch was.

What the teacher experiences:

While students are describing and sketching take time to listen to the words they use. Store these words for later in the class so you can link them to the proper names.
You heard Jose Adem Chain say, “The pattern starts at 2 and goes up…” If most students are using the phrase “starts at..” We can introduce the term y-intercept.
Or on the periodic function version:
A student might say, “…it does that and then repeats 4 units later” You now have a gateway into introducing the period of the function.
After each round use the Teacher View to showcase some student graphs to the class.
Consider restricting the students to the current sketch and move from sketch to sketch as a class.
Last question.

The words generated on this slide will most likely be informal. As a class discuss the informal use of the word and then introduce the more formal words relating to the topic.
Inspired by Brian McBain and also the team at Desmos