Posted in 3.1 Media Utilization, UTILIZATION

Using Spreadsheets in the Classroom

Using Spreadsheets in the Classroom

Spreadsheets aren’t handy just for classroom management.  In fact, the ability of spreadsheets to organize data makes them a wonderful tool for uses at all levels of education and can be applied to any discipline of study.  The benefits of spreadsheets are that they help students manage working with complex sets of numbers and save time by allowing for quick calculations.  This frees students to ask more “what if” questions and may increase motivation because students can manipulate spreadsheet graphics.  Spreadsheets have four main functions students can explore: data collection, creating graphs, plotting timelines, and recording surveys results.  Here is a brief overview of how each can be used in the classroom.

Data Collection

For students data collection can be used to record homework grades, class assignments, and test scores to keep a tally of the overall class grade.  Spreadsheets can also be used to keep track of a budget for a hypothetical business, club, or personal living expenses, or specific information from a science lab.  In the graph below student count the number of skittles in small and large bags to find the average number of colors in each.


Graphs are an outstanding way to put a visual representation to a numeric concept.  Graphs can be used to show the relationship between numbers in bar, pie, line, area, and x/y plot.  Each graph has a different purpose, for example bar graphs show changes over time (years, months, or days) or compare differences between things (types of occupations students want to be).  Below is an example of three team scores that have been compared for the whole season.


Surveys can be conducted online or in person and are a fantastic way to get students engaged, collaborating, and applying new skills in a real world situation.  Surveys are similar to polling mechanisms and are designed to collect multiple responses to questions that can be true/false, yes/no, multiple-choice, or multiple answer.  Here students conduct a survey to identify mac or PC users and computer use preferences.


Students will benefit from putting important events in order in a timeline or calendar.  The time line can also be used is to record steps to a procedure.  These options allow students to organize what they have learned or plan for future events.  Timelines and calendars can span a short period of time such as events or assignments over the course of a school year, or they can cover decades and centuries.  This timeline below tracks the key life events of Sitting Bull.

Sample Lesson

Topic: Water Usage in Your Home

Goals of lesson:

  • Use a spreadsheet to track the amount of water their family uses and apply concepts and procedures from probability and statistics.
  • Use spreadsheets to solve problems and make informed decisions.
  • Use spreadsheets to process data and report results.
  • Students will use Internet resources to compare the amount of water used by their families to that used by other families.
  • Students will identify ways to decrease family water usage.

Description of the data:

Students will explore how much water is used in their household over the course of one week.  They will answer questions like “How much water does a 5 minute shower typically take?”  or “Which uses less water, hand washing dishes or running the dishwasher?” They will record their findings in spreadsheet and report on their findings.  Extend this activity by allowing students to compare results and work in groups to brainstorm ways to reduce family water usage.

Spreadsheet and student instructions:



Instructional Technology Coach. Mother. Life Long Learner.

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