Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum

Len Vacher, University of South Florida, Tampa

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Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum was a three-year project to develop and test educational spreadsheet modules that enhance quantitative literacy wherever quantitative problems arise in the undergraduate curriculum.

The project was supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, through award DUE 0442629 (7/2005-6/2008).

The Goal

Quantitative Literacy, the opposite of math avoidance, is the habit of mind which enables a person to engage quantitative material in order to solve a problem or to frame an argument. Like maturity, quantitative literacy comes with experience and growth. The goal of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum (SSAC) is to promote this experience and growth. learn more about SSAC and QL here

The Pedagogy

Teaching with SSAC. Ask students a quantitative question in non-mathematics context -- a question that requires consideration of numbers, tables or graphs, and/or a calculation or estimate. Then ask the students to build a spreadsheet to answer the question. What mathematics applies? How do you do the mathematics? How do you design the spreadsheet to calculate an answer? What cell equations belong in the cells? In short, ask students to figure out How to Solve It using the software that resides in the technology sitting on their desks. learn more about teaching with SSAC here

The Library

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 -- by determining the correct cell equations to populate the spreadsheets, by working through the embedded mathematical content, and by attacking the in-discipline problem or problems of the context. The modules are intended to be intense activities in problem solving. learn more about the design of SSAC modules

The General Collection consists of modules that were created specifically for SSAC and its goal of developing QL skills in non-mathematics context. These modules resulted from project-supported, week-long workshops held in Olympia Washington in July 2005, 2006 and 2007 by the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education (The Evergreen State College). There are 55 modules in the collection. learn more about the general collection

The Geology of National Parks Collection consists of modules being created by faculty and graduate students of the USF Geology Department in collaboration with NPS Research Learning Centers as part of Geology of National Parks: Spreadsheets, Quantitative Literacy, and Natural Resources(NSF DUE 0826566). One of the goals of the collection is to facilitate the alignment of the Geology of National Parks course at USF with the NPS Natural Resource Challenge. learn more about the geology of national parks collection

The Physical Volcanology Collection consists of nine modules developed by Chuck Connor (University of South Florida) and Peter LaFemina (The Pennsylvania State University) for their respective courses. The modules are patterned after the SSAC style and pedagogical approach. The intent of the modules is to teach the volcanology content, and less so the embedded mathematics. learn more about the physical volcanology collection

The Geologic Hazards Collection consists of eight modules developed by Thomas Juster for his courses at University of South Florida. The modules are patterned after the SSAC style and pedagogical approach. The intent of the modules is to teach geologic hazards in context. learn more about the geologic hazards collection

For More Information

There is a series of papers on SSAC in the journal Numeracy:

"Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum, 1: The Idea and the Resource" (Vacher and Lardner, 2010).

"Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum, 2: Assessing our success with students at Eckerd College" (Wetzel, 2011).

"Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum, 3: Finding a list of mathematical skills for quantitative literacy empirically" (Vacher and Lardner 2011).

"Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum, 4: Evidence of student learning and attitudes about spreadhseets in a Physical Geology course" (Lehto and Vacher, 2012).

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