Is It Hot in Here? -- Spreadsheeting Conversions in the English and Metric Systems

Cheryl Coolidge
Colby-Sawyer College, New London NH
Created: 2006-07-28 13:48:00 Last Modified: October 30, 2007 13:32
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum activity, students create spreadsheets to convert units between and within the English and the metric systems. They work with units for temperature, volume and mass. The module includes a review of the basics about unit conversions and an introduction to spreadsheets for new users.

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Learning Goals

Students will

  • Practice performing conversions of temperature, mass, and volume by developing spreadsheets to carry out the calculations.
  • Develop spreadsheet skills including building formulas and creating graphs.
  • Learn how to add a trendline to a graph and interpret the relationship between its slope and the conversion factor.
  • Review the metric system and scientific notation.
  • Use the TREND function to facilitate conversions.

In the process the students will

  • Increase their ability to perform calculations using spreadsheets.
  • Increase their skill at unit conversions.
  • Acquire an understanding of the magnitude of metric units.

Context for Use

This activity is intended for use in a first semester college course in chemistry, biology, earth science, or other class where unit conversions are used. It will be a review for many students. It is also appropriate for advanced placement classes.

Description and Teaching Materials

SSAC2006.Q199.CC1.2-student (PowerPoint 301kB Feb15 07)

The module is a PowerPoint presentation with embedded spreadsheets. If the embedded spreadsheets are not visible, save the PowerPoint file to disk and open it from there.

This PowerPoint file is the student version of the module. An instructor version is available by request. The instructor version includes the completed spreadsheet. Send your request to Len Vacher ( by filling out and submitting the Instructor Module Request Form.

Students will need computers to complete this assignment.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The module is constructed to be a stand-alone resource. It can be used as a homework assignment or lab activity. It can also be used as the basis of an interactive classroom activity.

An optional introduction to the use of Excel spreadsheets is included in the activity for novice Excel users.


The last two slides are an end-of-module assignment that can be used to examine student understanding and learning gains.

The instructor's version also includes a pretest that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the module.

References and Resources