The SSAC Library

SSAC modules are PowerPoint presentations that lead students to build Excel spreadsheets while they examine and solve elementary mathematics problems in non-mathematics context. In working through the modules, students apply their problem-solving abilities to three, interacting sets of problems simultaneously. The students determine the correct cell equations to populate the spreadsheets. They work through the embedded mathematical content. They solve the in-discipline problem or problems of the context.

Module Design

The modules consist of about 15 PowerPoint slides. The PowerPoint presentations are designed with the assumption that the students will work through the slides on their own. That is, the presentations are self-contained (e.g., requiring no textbooks), and they are written for the students, not the instructors. The first slide is a title slide that includes a list of the quantitative concepts and skills that come into play in completing the module. The list can serve as a prompt to discerning students who wonder "what is going to be on the quiz?"

The bookends of the modules are one or more slides at the beginning that set the nonmathematics context and one or more slides at the end that give "end-of-module assignments." The beginning, context slides typically state the problem that is addressed by the module, give some background information on the context, and preview the content and objectives of the following slides. The end-of-module assignments, which are intended as homework, commonly include one or more questions that ask the students to change some of the parameters in the spreadsheets that they made while working through the module.

The core of the module is the sequence of slides that takes the students through the construction of the spreadsheets. The spreadsheets do the calculations that address the in-context problem. In many cases, this part of the module involves graphing. The modules that are aimed at beginning spreadsheet users include Excel instructions. In all cases, the exception is that students duplicate the spreadsheets on their computer.

The slides are strongly color-coded. Blue text boxes contain information in the mainstream of the narrative. Green text boxes signify a "command" such as "Recreate this spreadsheet." Red text boxes give sideline information that may be interesting or useful.

The embedded spreadsheets are also color-coded. Although numbers appear on both yellow and orange cells, the yellow cells are for numbers and the orange cells are for cell equations. Students are supposed to figure out the cell equations that go in the orange cells. They use the numbers that appear in the orange cells as checks on their equations.

The longer modules are longer because of additional slides at the bookends -- generally because of fuller development of the context. Some of the later modules make extensive use of hyperlinks to end notes and Internet resources. Regardless of the length and detail of the module, the core in which the students build the spreadsheets usually does not exceed 10-12 slides. In some cases it is considerably less.

Code Numbers

Each module has a three-part code number that appears in the upper-left corner of the title slide. The code number is of the form SSAC2005.QA1.SJ1.1. The SSAC2005 segment indicates the year of the series. SSAC2005, SSAC2006 and SSAC2007 indicate modules associated with the workshops of Summer 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively. SSAC2004 indicate modules reformatted from the precursor proof-of-concept project -- "Spreadsheets for Geological-Mathematical Problem Solving."

The QA1 part of SSAC2005.QA1.SJ1.1 corresponds to the Library of Congress classification of subjects. For example, QE531 for the module on the popping-popcorn analogy for radioactive decay catalogs the module in geochemistry.

The SJ1.2 part codes for the author. For example GTF1.2 for the module on the trade-offs in driving a distance for cheaper gas prices indicates the module is Gary Franchy's second SSAC module. Similarly, CC1.3 signifies Cheryl Coolidge's third SSAC module, and CC2.2 indicates Chuck Connor's second.

Cover Pages

As part of SERC's Pedagogical Services project, each module has a descriptive cover page in which the author of the module gives pedagogical information such as learning goals, context of use, and teaching tips. The cover page also includes an image of the module's title slide, which lists the various quantitative concepts and skills targeted by the module.

The link to the student version of the module is under Teaching Materials in the cover page. In the student version, the spreadsheets are embedded as pictures rather than as worksheets, so clicking on the spreadsheets does not activate Excel. Instructors who would like instructor versions, in which spreadsheets are embedded as worksheets, are invited to click on "request" and fill out the request form that comes up.

The titles of the modules in each of the collections are listed in a browse page that links to the cover pages. The browse page includes a couple ways to search for modules. The search box at the upper left provides a full-text search of the cover pages, so you can search by author, subject, or keyword. There are also three Narrow the View search boxes on the right using index tags (click on the links to see the full vocabularies): Math content (Quantitative Concept) (Microsoft Word 41kB Jun17 10), Context (Subject) (Microsoft Word 29kB Jul13 07), and Excel Skill (Microsoft Word 32kB Jul13 07).