Spreadsheet Warm Up for SSAC Geology of National Parks Modules
Summary
This Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum module introduces students to the electronic spreadsheet as a tool for elementary calculation. The module covers some basics, including the components of a spreadsheet, the necessity of an equals symbol for cell formulas, how the mathematical concept of function applies to spreadsheets, and a few mechanical things such as copying and pasting. It also covers some basic quantitativeliteracy material that will come up in later modules – order of operation, unit conversions using proportions, order of magnitude, and a few elementary functions. The module is basically a tutorial followed by a hefty endofmodule assignment that elaborates on the QL concepts introduced in the tutorial. The data used in the spreadsheets are areas and numbers of visitors for 25 parks (10 in the tutorial, 15 in one of the endofmodule problems).
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number NSF DUE0836566. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Learning Goals
Students will:

Read an introductory slide pointing out that a course like Geology of National Parks requires some quantitative literacy and that spreadsheets provide an easy and convenient way to work with numbers.

Read a series of slides introducing the components of a spreadsheet such as cell addresses, the formula bar, and how to enter formulas.

Create cell formulas to explore what numbers are produced when one combines three numbers in various ways with symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and exponentiation.

Study a pair of slides that build a spreadsheet that lists the areas of ten selected national parks in acres and converts the areas to square miles.

Study a slide that introduces the common logarithm as the builtin function producing the order of magnitude of a number and uses it in a spreadsheet to determine the order of magnitude of the number of annual visitors to each of the ten selected parks.

Study a pair of slides using builtin functions in a spreadsheet to find the total, maximum, minimum and average number of visitors to the ten parks,

For the endofmodule assignment: summarize their findings on the rules for order of operations; convert distances from miles to kilometers, then to proportion of the Earth's radius; use the common logarithm function to construct a logarithmic scale plotting familiar astronomical distances; craft a definition for the common logarithm function using the word exponent; and download a spreadsheet of 15 parks with their areas and numbers of visitors and then find the parks with the most and fewest visitors per square mile.
In the process the students will:

Recall or relearn some basic concepts including order of operations, order of magnitude, proportions and unit conversions, and the definition of a function.

Get started with working with numbers in a spreadsheet.

Learn that numbers and some elementary mathematics will be part of the course and that they will use spreadsheets to work with the numbers and do the math.