Exploring Spreadsheets with Microsoft Excel
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
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Description of the activity/assignment
Think about the many sets of data you may encounter in your daily activities. You may track your finances, follow statistics for your favorite sport, watch stock market trends, or pay attention to weather records such as temperature and precipitation. News reports often include graphs that you must understand in order to follow an argument. And of course, scientists use graphs to summarize and convey information and to support hypotheses. Before the days of computers, people had to record data and perform calculations by hand. In fact, the original use of the word "computer" was to describe a person whose job was doing arithmetic. At that time, a spreadsheet was a piece of paper with ruled lines forming rows and columns where data could be written in. Today, most people use computer spreadsheets in the form of software such as Microsoft Excel™, but the basic idea remains the same.
Student materials for this exercise include a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with marked cells and several charts and the instruction sheet (MS Word). The exercise is divided into three parts.
Part I introduces the capability of a spreadsheet to handle a large dataset containing worldwide earthquake epicenters from October 2011 and plots a scatter chart of these data, which is equivalent to a map.
In Part II, students work with several different types of charts (column, bar, pie, and triangle charts) and use tables and charts to answer questions about Earth's interior.
Part III involves entering a formula using cell names, learning to fill down, and discovering how relative and absolute cell names work. This work is done in the context of Earth's interior layers.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: Student Instructions for Spreadsheet Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.6MB Jun15 19)
- Instructors Notes: Lecture Slides for Spreadsheet Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 2.2MB Jun15 19)
- Student Workbook for Exploring Spreadsheets Activity (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 160kB Jun15 19)
Earthquake Hazards Program, Search Earthquake Catalog: Online resource – Accessed June 15, 2019
Microsoft, 2018, Excel for Windows Video Training: Online resource – Accessed June 15, 2019
Microsoft, 2018, Create a Chart from Start to Finish: Online resource – Accessed June 15, 2019
Williams, M., 2015, What are the Earth's layers?: Online resource – Accessed June 15, 2019