Spreadsheets as Tools for
Learning 
How can spreadsheets be used in elementary and middle grades grades
mathematics classes? Students can use this tool to organize and
analyze data, to create representations, to develop deeper understanding
of mathematics, and to “uncover” powerful mathematical
ideas. 
Why use spreadsheets in problem solving? 
 Mindtools, à la David Jonassen,
 are critical thinking tools that engage and facilitate
cognitive processing.
 are constructive.
 amplify and reorganize mental functioning.
 require learners to think more deeply than they would
have to without the tool.
 make more effective use of the mental efforts of the learner;
offloading calculation tasks allows learner to apply more
effort to understanding.
 Spreadsheets support problem solving by enabling students
to
 identify and describe relationships and patterns —
facilitated by organization of data.
 answer questions and make decisions.
 test hypotheses: “what if?”
 integrate graphical representation with numerical
 double check through alternate calculation.
 explore extensions of the problem.
 Spreadsheets enhance mathematical comprehension by supporting
numerical thinking.
 Spreadsheets facilitate generalization which prepares them
for algebra.

Considerations:
 Teach spreadsheet as alternate method after solving small
scale problem with paper and pencil.
 Begin with words before building formulas.
 Begin with a teachercreated template.
 Reinforce labeling of data, formatting number, including rounding
issues.
 Not a replacement for understanding.
 Importance of estimation and determining reasonableness of
answer.
 Effective use of technology will influence what math is taught.

Mathematical concepts supported by spreadsheet:
 formula generation
 connections
 symmetry
 discrete vs continuous
 graphs
 geometric relationships among dimension, area, perimeter,
volume
 rate of growth

References
 Principals and Standards for School Mathematics.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
 Computers as Mindtools for Schools. David H Jonassen;
Merrill/Prentice Hall.
 Spreadsheet Activities in Middle School Mathematics.
John C Russell; NCTM.
 Introduction
to Math and Spreadsheets
