Teaching with Spreadsheets

Spreadsheet Mug

Created by Miles B. Cahill (College of the Holy Cross), with help from Humberto Barreto (Depauw University), Semra Kilic-Bahi (Colby-Sawyer College) and David Schodt (St. Olaf College). Significant material on these pages is based on my work with George Kosicki.

What is Teaching with Spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets allow students to "get their hands dirty" by working with real-world data. Spreadsheets make abstract or complex models accessible by providing concrete examples and allowing "what if" analyses. Charts on a printed page are "dead" while spreadsheet representations are "live" in that students can interact with the concepts underlying them. Spreadsheet programs contain a number of powerful tools, some well-known, some less so. See more about spreadsheet tools.

Spreadsheets promote learning in a variety of ways from helping to prepare lectures to constructing laboratory sessions. See more about learning environments that can accommodate spreadsheet exercises.

Find more information about teaching with spreadsheets

SERC offers other modules related to teaching with spreadsheets, including What is Excel? from Mathematics and Statistics Models and Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum. In addition, the References page includes links to other modules related to teaching with data and models.

Why Teach with Spreadsheets?

Spreadsheet applications are easy to implement because most students already have spreadsheet programs on their computers. Spreadsheets are also an attractive technology because students are likely to use spreadsheets in future projects, careers and in personal life. Spreadsheet programs are enormously flexible, familiar, and relatively easy to use. As such, they can increase both the breadth and depth of the topics covered in a class. In addition, spreadsheet activities may be assessed in a number of different ways.

Find more information about advantages of teaching with spreadsheets

How to Teach with Spreadsheets

As with any pedagogical tool, using spreadsheets effectively takes careful thought and planning. However, by going through a series of steps to develop an appropriate exercise, spreadsheets can indeed measurably enhance learning. Furthermore, applications can be constructed to either hide or require understanding of mathematics, and either obscure or build up or spreadsheet modeling skills. See more about example design or Excel basics.

Find more information about how to teach with spreadsheets

Examples of Teaching with Spreadsheets

This Examples of Teaching with Spreadsheets page contains a searchable database of example spreadsheet applications that can be used in a variety of teaching environments. Some examples are cross-listed from the Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum module which provides exercises that bring students step-by-step through the process of basic spreadsheet construction.

Examples of teaching with spreadsheets


The references page contains a categorized list of references to literature on using spreadsheets and the benefits of teaching quantitative skills. Some resources provide general guidance on using spreadsheets and some provide applications for specific disciplines.
References for teaching with spreadsheets

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