Spreadsheets
Overview
This unit explores the teaching and learning issues surrounding spreadsheets in the mathematics classroom. It is intended to support teachers working on the GCSE Linked Pair Pilot and is subject content for the Applications of mathematics qualification. You will be invited to consider strategies for integrating spreadsheets as a tool into your mathematics lessons and you will then explore some strategies and activities which may support you in the planning of a group of lessons to include in your scheme of work focussing on spreadsheets.
Objectives related to this topic are:
 Use spreadsheets to model financial, statistical and other numerical situations
Materials required
 Resource sheets
 a computer with spreadsheet software
Suggested activities
Activity 1: Getting Started
Learners are likely to be at very different points in their understanding of the use of spreadsheets. The resources offered here use spreadsheets to explore mathematical ideas and, as such, should provide some challenge for learners at all levels whether this challenge is mathematical or in using the ICT.
Many learners will engage with this topic because they perceive it to be of use to them in the future.
Work with a partner. Before reading on decide which of you will argue for and which will argue against the following statement.
Now spend a few minutes in role discussing the following: “Using a spreadsheet to carry out calculations is cheating. Students should be able to carry out the calculations on paper”
Activity 2: Sample learning activities
As a team use the following resource sheets to explore the suggested learning activities:
Spreadsheets 1 – Generating sequences (multiple representations)
In this activity the teacher invites learners to cut out the cards and match sequences with a worded description and a spreadsheet formula used to generate the sequence. Where a set of formulae or a sequence is missing, students could write their own card including the missing information.
This activity may be useful for the teacher to develop an understanding of the needs of individual members of the class and what they know already. This resource uses very simple spreadsheet commands – only using addition and multiplication.
Spreadsheets 2 – Worded problems (multiple representations)
Again, this activity may help the teacher to find out what pupils know already. Learners match worded problems, formulae and the results of the formula in sets of three. Where cards are missing students should write their own. This activity introduces commands such as ‘average’ and ‘sum’ as well as terms such as ‘compound interest’ and ‘depreciation’.
Spreadsheets 3 – Always, sometimes, never activity
Learners use spreadsheets to decide if statements relating to sequences are always, sometimes or never true.
Spreadsheets 4 – Some problems to explore using spreadsheets
A set of activities which allow students to use spreadsheets creatively to explore and solve problems.
Spreadsheets 5 – Exponential growth
Students are given three options to explore using a spreadsheet and are invited to decide which is the better choice.
Spreadsheets 6 – Minimum temperatures
This resource is taken from the Secondary Magazine resource Sno Joke. Students are given a large data set and invited to use it to explore whether winters are getting colder. This resource gives students the opportunity to use spreadsheets creatively and to include graphs with their work if they choose.
Spreadsheets 7 – Working on an examination question
You are invited to consider a sample assessment question from Edexcel, thinking about areas that might challenge students.
Activity 3: So what’s good about these activities?
In pairs or small groups diIn pairs or small groups discuss the reasons that mathematicians might use spreadsheets. Which of these activities fit with your reasons?
Collect other activities which fit with your reasons.
Sort these activities into a progression which can be developed into a unit of work to be included into your team’s scheme of work.
Embedding in practice
Hooks for Learning
 A spreadsheet of dinosaur data from the Natural History Museum
 Credit where credit’s due – NCETM Up2d8 resource exploring interest rates
 Police Tweets – NCETM Up2d8 resource using discrete data in a spreadsheet
 Spreadsheet of dinosaur data
Action points
At the end of the session, spend time recording some actions. What do you need to do:
 Next day?
 Next week?
 Next year?
Further reading
 Using ICT to address hard to teach concepts: Mathematics case study 2 – Year 11s use a spreadsheet.
 Using ICT in mathematics: sequences, functions and graphs
