Today was the first official day of exams at my school. We'll have 2 each day for the next three days to finish out the week before having a week off for "Winter break" (to resume on January 2).

When prepping for exams, I knew what I'd be doing for my Honors Precalculus classes. I made up a review packet from first semester material, gave them a few days in class to work on it, posted the answers online for them to check, and we'll have our multiple choice exam during the appropriate class period. No biggie.

In teaching my new course for the year, General Math 3, I didn't think that the typical routine would be in the students' best interest. These students don't typically like to spend time studying, let alone spend several days reviewing then taking a big test. Many of the students will be retaking the required state tests in the next month to help up their mandatory point total. Would taking this exam help them? Not only in reviewing (or not reviewing) the concepts, but in their confidence? My thought was no.

So I switched it up into a multi-day activity.

We spent 3 days last week working on a tandem packet/Desmos activity which brought back the material we'd learned so far this year. The packet was mostly a way for students to summarize their notes and then apply to the problems on Desmos. I collected the packets and paused the activity when students weren't in my classroom. I had several students ask for extra time, which I gave them on the condition that they came to my room to work. I just wanted to make sure that it was their work and not their buddy's in study hall.

I counted the packet for 25% of the exam grade and the Desmos activity for another 25%. Here's the link to the Activity and the one to the accompanying packet.

Yesterday I introduced Part 2, which was using the functions and transformations we've been learning about to create a picture in Desmos. My requirements were pretty minimal: students have to include at least 4 linear equations (with the 4 possible slopes) and at least 4 additional parent functions (quadratic, cubic, square root, cube root, absolute value, exponential, and sine). They had yesterday in class and then the official exam period today to work on it. I created a Desmos Activity that had a blank slide for each student with their name on it. I pre-populated the slides with folders for students to put their equations in (that worked so-so).

And then on the last screen, I asked if the students had learned anything from the activity. Some notable responses:

And some of the results have been AMAZING.

Pros:

1. Students were engaged and working in class.

2. I really believe that students worked harder and reviewed the material more than they would have for a typical exam.

3. They enjoyed this more than they would have a typical exam. And performed better!

Cons:

1. Grading the Desmos Activity (part 1) is a bit of a pain. I built in some self-checking through the Computation Layer but I have been looking at all of the student responses (I set up a spreadsheet and record grades for each slide as I go). It's not so bad because I have a total of 29 students in 2 classes and a lot of time this week to check them out, but definitely a lot more work for me than running a scantron through the machine.

2. Attendance for some students is iffy, but I think there has been ample time to complete the activities. We have two weeks after our break before the semester actually ends for these to be finished officially. I'm hoping not to have to use them, but I'm not holding my breath. This is definitely something I'd use again (and consider how to improve it, of course!).

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