Why use Excel

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006
Spreadsheets (like Microsoft Excel) can be very useful for student interactive activities, interactive lectures, and instructor use for developing materials for class. Example aspects of spreadsheets that are relevant to science education are:
  • Using Excel as a calculator to explore what mathematical equations can tell us about how the real world works for specific input conditions or for a range of possible values.
    • The calculator can be pre-constructed with a focus on student exploration or students can be guided to construct their own calculators and then explore. The first option saves time but the second option prepares students to use Excel for their own projects and future activities.
  • Graphically displaying equations (analytical models) and real data.
  • Obtaining numerical solutions to more mathematically complex models.
  • Graphically comparing results from a model and observations.
  • Statistical analysis including mean, standard deviation, error bars on graphs, linear and polynomial fits, multivariate analysis, etc.
  • Spectral analysis (Fast Fourier Transforms).
  • Displaying histograms of students results or student response to exams or questions.