Using Desmos on iPads… for the Algebra 1 EOC STAAR Test… Take 2

This week, our Algebra 1 students took their STAAR End-of-Course exam.  This round marks year 2 of Algebra 1 students being permitted to use both a TI handheld graphing calculator and the Desmos Test Mode iPad app in light of this TEA calculator policy change that went into effect last school year.

An annual tradition for my Math 8 students (who recently experienced year 3 of TI and Desmos Test Mode access for state testing) and now, my Algebra 1 students, is to give a quick 3-question follow-up survey.

I asked three questions:

  • In general, which tool do you prefer?
  • Name a few math lesson topics for which you like using the TI Graphing Calculator more than Desmos Test Mode.
  • Name a few math lesson topics for which you like using Desmos Test Mode more than the TI Graphing Calculator.

Though my Algebra 1 sample size this year is very small (36 students to be exact) this round marks the first time that not a single student answered the first question by saying they prefer the TI calculator…!  This hasn’t necessarily been the case with Math 8 students annually.  You can see their preferences by checking out this post.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of this year’s Algebra students and last year’s sample size of 49 students.  Additionally, you can check out the unedited and anonymous responses from this year’s Algebra 1 students regarding their favorite concepts to explore using each calculator.

Algebra Calculator Survey Yenca 2016-17

What struck me most was that we’re paying over $100 a pop for a calculator because it can graph stuff, but these students aren’t actually using the TI handheld graphing calculator for that purpose…!

Hands down, these Algebra 1 students use Desmos for graphing, and the TI primarily for quick calculations using the four basic operations.

More calculator commentary here and here and here and here and here and here and here !

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5 Responses to Using Desmos on iPads… for the Algebra 1 EOC STAAR Test… Take 2

  1. Heather Tekell says:

    Do you know where we could find documentation that Desmos will be allowable for the December 2018 Algebra 1 re-test? This article was very helpful! I am a new algebra teacher and I love Desmos!!!

  2. Pingback: Ending Another Year {With Desmos} | MathyCathy's Blog – Mrs. Cathy Yenca

  3. Judy T says:

    How do your students access the DESMOS calculator the Algebra 1 EOC STAAR? Are your students using IPADS t access DESMOS during the test? If so, could you explain how students could use DESMOS on the Algebra I EOC if we do not have ipads?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Cathy Yenca says:


      Our students have historically taken a paper STAAR test, and have had iPads locked into the Desmos Test Mode iOS app. To find out details that may be pertinent to your unique situation, I’d encourage you to visit and reach out to the kind folks at Desmos if you need further support than this documentation provides.

      Be Well,

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