Making Desmos Elementary: A 1st Grade Card Sort

Hello math geeks!  Welcome back!

I’ve been an advocate for using dot images and visuals as problems for number talks in the elementary classroom.  (You can find a great bank of visuals here.)  I’ve also been an advocate for using Desmos as an instructional tool for letting student thinking drive the classroom discourse.

Traditionally, Desmos has been used mostly by middle and secondary teachers as a teaching tool.  But recently they’ve introduced Card Sort as a way to make Desmos a useful instructional tool for elementary teachers and students as well.  I wrote a bit more about this on my post hereAnnie Forest made some brilliant screencast videos about how to use Desmos here.  Check them out!  She also has a bank of activities (small but growing!) here.

Here’s a link to my card sort activity.  (If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one.  It’s simple, free, and takes 30 seconds.  All you need is an email address.)

What a Card Sort Can Look Like

Below is a snapshot of what students would see at the beginning of the activity.  The task is for students to make groups (sort the cards) to show “Who counted it the same way?”  This card sort allows for students to think flexibly about different ways to visualize, express, and describe ways to make 10.


As students manipulate the cards (with fingers on touch screens or with a mouse), they can “snap” cards into groups.  The teacher can monitor student progress by floating around the room and/or using the dashboard feature on their computer or tablet.  Eventually, students produce something that looks like this:

The lesson concludes by asking students to count the dots in a different way and then to describe how they counted them using words or numbers.


What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  How can it be better?

How would this be helpful for your teaching and for student learning?  What support you need to make this happen?

Would love to see how this plays out in the classroom.  I’m excited to try it out!  Let me know what you learn when you use it.

If you create your own, send me a note or a tweet (@mathgeek76).  Use the #desmoscardsort to share what you create with others!

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