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Technology in the Mathematics Classroom




What is a spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a grid composed of an indefinite number of rows and columns that cross to make cells where information is entered. Spreadsheet programs can be used to make calculations, organize data, make charts, and much more. Click here to see a diagram of a spreadsheet.


Spreadsheets in the Mathematics Classroom

Of all the tools discussed on this site, spreadsheets probably have the most uses in the mathematics classroom. The most common use of this tool is to organize data and create charts and graphs, but the list of other uses is quite long. However, it is up to the user to discover what these uses are. This makes the spreadsheet the ultimate tool for discovery, practice, and an excellent form of assessment.

Learning the basics of spreadsheets is a simple task. This means that their use is appropriate for many grade levels. At the most basic level, the user simply enters data into cells. That data can then be used to create a chart or graph, of which there are many choices. But the real power of spreadsheets comes from using functions. After data is entered into cells, students can then begin to write functions that will calculate the sum, mean, product, or anything else you can think up for a column or row of numbers. Imagine the possibilities!!

Creating Charts and Graphs with Spreadsheets


One of the most common (and easiest to learn) uses for spreadsheets in the classroom is for entering data and then creating a chart or graph from the data. Bar graphs, line graphs, scatter plots, and more are possible with spreadsheets. Imagine graphing linear and nonlinear patterns and asking students to describe the difference.

Printable - Bar, Circle, & Line Graphs - Examples(pdf) Adobe Acrobat Reader required to open printables on this page.

Printable - How to Make a Graph (pdf)

Printable - Linear and Nonlinear Patterns (pdf)


Writing Functions with Spreadsheets - Classroom Uses


A function is a set of instructions for calculating a value in a spreadsheet cell. Functions consist of:

  • data - numbers you type in the formula and values in other cells.
  • the instructions to process that data. For example, you can write a function for each of the arithmetic operations (+, -, *, /).
  • an equals sign always precedes any instruction.

A function for dividing 8 by 4 would be =8/4.

Printable - Writing Functions (pdf)



Teaching Measures of Central Tendency with Spreadsheets

You can use a spreadsheet to calculate the mean and range for a set a data and determine the median and mode.

Printable - Means and Outliers (pdf)

Printable - Find the Median, Mode, and Range (pdf)


Measurement using Spreadsheets

A formula can also be written to make measurement conversions. Changing feet to yards is an example.



Obviously converting feet to yards is far from the only conversion. You could also go from feet to yards by simply writing a formula that divides the number in the cell by 3.


Finding Percents with Spreadsheets

The example below illustrates yet another use for spreadsheets in the classroom.

=D15*E15 & =D15-F15


In order to make a table similar to the one above, it is necessary to write two formulas. One formula calculates the amount of the discount, and the other calculates the final price after the discount has been subtracted.


Finding Areas with Spreadsheets

This is a particularly powerful use of spreadsheets in the classroom. Finding the area any shape requires using a formula. Because it is simple to set up a spreadsheet with missing lengths, widths, or areas in certain cells require that students write a formula to find these missing parts. See the example:

The formula for finding the area of the triangle would be =(I23*J23)/2. However, in the second row, we see that the height of the triangle is missing. Students must write a formula in the cell with the question marks to get the correct answer. Notice the amount of thinking that must go into this in order to get the correct answer!


Printable - Finding the Circumference of a Circle (pdf)





Read more about technology in the classroom at the blog.

Spreadsheets in Education
- [] - This site lists references and links to information about spreadsheets with an emphasis on science and math. Real high level stuff here.

Spreadsheet Basics - [] - This site from the Math Forum explains the basics of spreadsheets and gives specific examples of actual problems to use in class. Just click on GRAPHS and then MORE EXAMPLES to find them. They make for great practice!

Quick-XL simplifies data entry in Excel

Quick-XL is an Excel add-in for entering data into Excel spreadsheets. It is designed to provide a highly ergonomic way to get data entered as quickly as possible. Quick-XL works in businesses of all sizes. Best news, the cost is under $10/yr.

More Spreadsheet Links






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