Video & Multiple Choice: What Took Us So Long?

We just added support for multiple choice questions and video exhibits in our Activity Builder. These are the first features lots of companies add to their online activity platforms so we wanted to explain why we waited so long.


First, we wanted to get them right, to build them in alignment with our pedagogical principles. Multiple choice questions can offer meaningful assessment, but it’s also easy to answer them correctly without knowing much of anything and it’s easy to answer them incorrectly while knowing quite a lot.

So we took our time to integrate multiple choice with explanation. Students will select an option and they’ll also have to explain that selection. Students will also see explanations from three other students, consistent with our interest in connecting students and their thinking together.

These are our default options, too. We needed time to communicate our pedagogical preferences through design and code.

Second, we wanted to cultivate a teacher base and a house style. What interests Desmos more than many of our colleagues in this space is informal mathematical thinking. It’s harder for machines to automatically grade that kind of thinking but we know it’s the kind of thinking that often interests students in mathematics and it makes formal mathematics easier to learn. So we built a text box and we built sketch – two useful conduits for informal mathematical thinking – before we built multiple choice and video.

We also speculated that our earliest teacher base would come to define our company and challenge our ideas about mathematics education in essential ways. If multiple choice and video were the first features we built, we anticipated registering many teachers who were interested primarily in uploading video lectures and creating quizzes. We think Desmos is useful for those purposes and we welcome those teachers. But more than we need teachers who will challenge us to be an adequate Khan Academy, we need teachers who will challenge us to be the best Desmos.

We couldn’t be happier with the results of those efforts. Feature requests are a joy to receive more often than not because our teachers understand our project.

We’ve set a bar for ourselves. Our teachers push it higher and help us clear it.

Stay tuned.