Spreadsheet Warm Up for SSAC Geology of National Parks Modules

Module by: Dorien McGee, Meghan Lindsey and Len Vacher, University of South Florida
Cover page by: Len Vacher

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


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 quantitative-literacy 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 end-of-module 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 end-of-module problems).

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number NSF DUE-0836566. 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.

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Learning Goals

Students will:

In the process the students will:

Context for Use

This module is designed for potential use in the Geology of National Parks service course at USF. The course is offered as an online course every semester. It includes readings from Parks and Plates, weekly quizzes based on that textbook, and weekly student activities designed to align the course with the University's general education requirements. This module is intended to be one of those activities, with the specific goal of meeting the gen-ed quantitative literacy dimension.

Description and Teaching Materials


The module is a PowerPoint presentation with embedded spreadsheets. Click on the link below to download a copy of the module.

Optimal results are achieved with Microsoft Office 2007 or later; the module will function in earlier versions with slight cosmetic compromises. If the embedded spreadsheets are not visible, save the PowerPoint file to disk and open it from there.

The above PowerPoint presentation file is the student version of the module. It includes a template for students to use to complete the spreadsheet(s) and answer the end-of-module questions, and then turn in for grading.

An instructor version is available by request. The instructor version includes the completed spreadsheet. Send your request to Len Vacher (vacher@usf.edu) by filling out and submitting the Instructor Module Request Form.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The module is constructed to be a stand-alone resource. It can be used as a homework assignment, lab activity, or as the basis of an interactive classroom activity. It was used as an out-of-class activity in a senior-elective course, Environmental Geology of the National Parks (for geology majors and nonmajors), during development of the module in Spring 2010, and as an out-of-class activity in Computational Geology (a QL course for geology majors) in Fall 2010 and Fall 2011. It has not been implemented yet in the introductory-level Geology of National Parks course.

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There is a slide at the end of the presentation that contains end-of-module questions. The end-of-module questions can be used to examine student understanding and learning gains from the module. Pre/post test, pre/post test answer key, and answer key for end-of-module questions are at the end of the instructor version of the module.

The idea for this module arose from the experience in earlier semesters that many students were dismayed by the sight of math and flummoxed by the need for a spreadsheet in the module that was used as one of the weekly activities. We will implement this module in the same semester that we add more modules from this collection. We hypothesize that our pre- and post-implementation data will show that the combination of more modules and presence of a starting tutorial module will associate with a more-positive student attitude about the presence of elementary math in an introductory geology course.

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