Math with a computer

Christopher I. Cobitz Ph.D.



Spreadsheets do math even if the student is not very good at arithmetic.But the student does need to understand some algebra.


Although the eight-grade test uses many scenarios, the important issue is the use of a data set.Once a spreadsheet with data set is produced it is a fruitful source of algebra activities.


Provide the students with a spreadsheet containing random number for the data and defined labels for the columns and rows.An example would be to provide dummy data for student scores in a record book.Be sure to designate certain assignments in the grade book as tests, quizzes, or homework.Also on the last row provide the value of a perfect score (for example on a given test the perfect score is 120).The spreadsheet only really needs to have about 4 rows of dummy student scores.(You could use the attached sheet)Ask the students to calculate the best weighting of the assignments types for each studentís grade.In a sufficiently advanced math course, the students could be asked to figure the percentages that would give the best scores for all involved.


This activity will require the students to use relative and absolute cell references, which are an expansion of the fundamental concepts of algebra.Be sure to check the formulas the students to use to see that they actually are using symbolic references instead of typing in the numbers that they are calculating.


Instead of spending their time worrying about arithmetic errors the students can spend their time goal seeking.


1999 Christopher I. Cobitz Ph.D.  Permission is granted for non-commercial use provided this copyright notice remains intact.