A spreadsheet is a piece of software which can hold and manipulate information in thousands of different cells. Inputting large amounts of data using a pen and paper can be very tedious, but with the help of an electronic spreadsheet, this process has been made a lot easier. Using a spreadsheet as an application in math education can be a helpful tool for teaching math concepts and verifying math solutions. Spreadsheets can be used for graphing, charts, financial concepts, budgeting, and even to-do lists and schedules. As assistive technology, spreadsheets can be used to increase calculation speed, help with visual number alignment, and provide a visual image of the concepts being taught.
Research has shown undergraduate students who used spreadsheets double checked their answers more often than those who used the traditional pen and paper method (Lavidas, Komis, & Gialamas, 2013). More specifically, the aspect of understanding mathematical formulas and geometric shapes was easier to understand and double check answers compared to using a pen and paper (Lavidas, Komis, & Gialamas, 2013). Eizenberg and Zaslavsky discovered students are more likely to verify their solutions if they were told their answer is correct or incorrect (Eizenberg and Zaslavsky, 2004). It’s important to note older research by Marriott (1992) trained students how to use spreadsheets as a computation tool along with verbal instruction in a finance course. Results showed students who used spreadsheets performed the same over time than students who did not use spreadsheets. It was concluded that students did improve their overall computer skills, but also that appropriate integration of spreadsheets in the curriculum was necessary for lessons to be grasped (Marriott, 1992). This could be because computers and spreadsheets were a very new and unknown tool in the early 1990s but it’s important to see the growth that spreadsheet have had as an assistive technology tool in and outside of the classroom.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
Can be tailored to specific lesson or math topic
Training may be extensive and time consuming
Students must be trained
Individual or group devices
Best practice: spreadsheets are most effective when integrated into a lesson plan/mixed with teacher feedback, rather than used independently
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Eizenberg, M.M., & Zaslavsky, O. (2004) Students’ verification strategies for combinatorial problems. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 6(1), 15-36. doi: 10.1207/s15327833mtl0601_2.
Lavidas, K., Komis, V., & Gialamas, V. (2013) Spreadsheets as cognitive tools: A study of the impact of spreadsheets on problem solving of math story problems. Education and Information Technologies, 18(1), 113-129. doi: 10.1007/s10639-011-9174-8.
Marriott, N. (1992). The effectiveness of using spreadsheets to teach financial accounting. Accounting Education, 1(2), 137-150. doi: 10.1080/09639289200000024.
Written by Tresa Jules, Last Revision April 2018