At a Glance


  • Physics
  • STEM

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Mechanics 203-NYA-05

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Analyzing
  • Gaming & role-playing
  • Other

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)


This collection of card-sorting activities encourages students to classify sets of cards according to various criteria. It forces students to make connections between various representations of a given concept. For instance, in kinematics, students need to categorize graphs according to change in speed, motion descriptions, and types of acceleration.

The activities are built on the Desmos Classroom Activity platform, a free platform designed to promote the learning of mathematics. (To get started with Desmos visit this SALTISE resource) Students can access the activity through a website without the need for an account. Conducting the activity online is more time efficient than with physical cards. It also allows to: provide immediate feedback and add other types of questions (ranking, calculation, multiple-choice, reflection…) to make the activity more complete.

During the activity, students work in small groups at their own pace as the teacher monitors the progress and intervenes when needed, either with individual groups or with the whole class.

Students explore a given concept from various points of view using multiple representations of the concept. The visual aspects of the card sorting ties to conceptual mapping and the cards become a conversation starter to promote peer instruction through discussions and negotiation between students.

The activities work best in groups of 2-4 students who collaborate on a single device. The main portion of each activity takes about 45 minutes to complete, but additional problems are added at the end to ensure that faster groups are not left empty-handed.

Instructional Objectives

  • Students will be able to sort various examples of a physics concept expressed with multiple representations according to different criteria

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Jean-François Brière

Jean-François Brière

Dawson College, Montreal

  • Having the activity online means no more printing and cutting of cards, and no more checking that all card sets are complete
  • The activities can easily be used in online teaching
  • The dynamic nature of the activities favours discussions and collaboration
  • The activities can easily be shared with colleagues
  • The number of cards must be limited to about 15 to be easily manageable on the screen
  • Creating new activities is time-consuming (but once created they are ready to go every year!)
  • Use the activities early in the teaching process when students are still struggling with concepts
  • The Desmos teacher’s dashboard offers various options to quickly survey and present student work
  • Setting the web browser to a zoom of about 80% gives more space to order the cards
  • Plan some extra autonomous work for groups who complete the activity more quickly

Applied Strategies

Related Activities

Physics STEM

Circuits: Card Sorting With Multiple Representations (E&M)

Physics STEM

Electrostatics: Card Sorting With Mutiple Representations (E&M)


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