Relative Advantage of Spreadsheets

Using spreadsheets in the classroom is almost natural for a math teacher.  We study so many different topics that can incorporate spreadsheet usage.  Even though much of what is taught does not have to include technology, interactive spreadsheets can extend and enhance the learning process (Drier, 2001).  I am lucky in that the curriculum we use is technology friendly and allows for different forms of technology to be used throughout the middle and high school levels.  Using spreadsheets is supplementary within a few different units in our high school lessons.

We have the ability to use spreadsheets when teaching matrices so students have a better understanding of how to read matrices.  Being able to read information provided by rows and columns (cells) is needed when multiplying matrices, and reading the data within the different cells.

Spreadsheets are another way to emphasize how formulas work.  There are so many different kinds of formulas and students need to understand how to read and use them. We look at algebraic, recursive, regression, and spreadsheet formulas for students to read and follow to create tables, graphs and rules.  In fact, I talk about using spreadsheets at home if students do not have access to a graphing calculator since spreadsheets have many of the same features as graphing calculator does, at least on what we use.  This is a fun challenge for students who need to extend their learning beyond what is taught in the classroom setting.

Finding the best fit line with a set of data is another skill that is continually used through units in the high school levels.  Being able to see real data and the patterns and relationships within the data but isn’t perfectly mathematical can be seen in regression lines.  Using spreadsheet graphs and tables help students see how helpful regression lines are in several different mathematical relationships (Green, 2008).

I could go on and on on the many benefits spreadsheets have within the math classroom.  Not only does it help within curriculum based lessons but also helps students with real-world scenarios when dealing with money, looking into future situations, and learning how graphs help visual data.  Spreadsheets can be very helpful when teaching any level of mathematics.

Here is my link to the Spreadsheet Activities and Lessons.

Resources

Drier, H. S. (2001). Teaching and learning mathematics with interactive spreadsheets. School Science and Mathematics, 101(4), 170–179.

Green, J. (2008). Using Spreadsheets to Make Algebra More Accessible. Part 1: Equations and Functions. Australian Mathematics Teacher, 64(4), 7–11.

Hirsch, C. R., Fey, J. T., Hart, E. W., Schoen, H. L., & Watkins, A. E. (2008). Core-Plus Mathematics Course 1 (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill Glencoe.

Hirsch, C. R., Fey, J. T., Hart, E. W., Schoen, H. L., & Watkins, A. E. (2008). Core-Plus Mathematics Course 2 (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill Glencoe.

4 thoughts on “Relative Advantage of Spreadsheets

  1. Jaime,
    I’m not a math person by any stretch of the imagination and I was never exposed to much technology in math when I was in school. I think the most technological thing I used in the math room was a Ti-85 graphing calculator in my Trigonometry class. I still remember one of my buddies programmed Jeopardy into it. I was thinking about your use of technology in the classroom and wondered if that would’ve helped me at math because I really struggled with Algebra. My question is this (doesn’t need answered, I’m just asking for the sake of asking): Do you think using software like spreadsheets has made math fundamentally easier to understand and grasp from twenty-thirty years ago or is it just a tool to better illustrate certain concepts of math? Either way, I think in my case, having this kind of technology would’ve helped me immensely. Great post!
    Matt

  2. Hi Jaime,
    You have a bunch of great ideas here for using spreadsheets for the math classroom. You mention using spreadsheets to create real world scenarios…. I think students see immediate benefit and can relate classwork to their own real life at home with such simulations. Very cool!

    I have to say I felt for the language teachers during this week’s assignment given the main point of your post: Spreadsheets work great in the math classroom. However, I’ve seen some great posts this week from language teachers on spreadsheets and databases!

    Thanks for a great post.
    Tracey

  3. Jaime,
    As a middle school math teacher I really enjoyed reading your post. My experience with spreadsheets in class has been limited to measures of central tendency and creating graphs/charts. Using spreadsheets for line of best fit is a great way to incorporate spreadsheets into math class. Students can quickly manipulate input data and visually see how it affects their graph. Teaching matrices through a spreadsheet is very logical, and I am a bit embarrassed that I have not done so with my students. Outstanding post.

  4. Jaime,
    I really enjoyed your post this week and it was clear that you love what you do! Your many examples of how spreadsheets are integrated into your math classes was refreshing and I particularly liked that you link them to real-world scenarios as well.

    I found this week’s assignment a bit more challenging when I tried to apply spreadsheets to other subject areas, as they support math activities so well and your post highlights many of those excellent applications.

    You have written a strong post this week, very good work!
    Angela

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