Using Excel in the Classroom

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson discusses several advantages to using Microsoft Excel in both the elementary and secondary classrooms. It will also offer several lesson ideas for using the software.

A Program for All Ages

More technology? Noooo! Have you ever uttered these words? If you haven't uttered them, have you at least thought them? Don't think you're alone. It's not uncommon for teachers to balk at--or even dread--the idea of having to master one more piece of classroom technology just to keep up with the times. Actually, Excel is a pretty easy program to learn to use, and even if you aren't a master, you can do some really neat things with it in the classroom. Whether you teach fourth graders or high school seniors, Excel can be a handy and fun tool to implement.

Pros of Using Excel

There are many reasons to use Excel with your students. In addition to learning a new program--and one that is arguably here to stay--there are lots of good things your students will get from using Excel. For one thing, Excel can turn raw data into graphs and charts in milliseconds, and these visual representations make it much easier for students to visualize and interpret data. In addition, Excel can take any graph, chart, or data set and turn it into a Web page within seconds. This allows students to share data, take it home, or just learn more about how the Internet works. Finally, as a teacher, you can have students work a chart or graph on Excel 'backwards,' reconstructing the original data from the information given. This is a very valuable tool when it comes to enhancing critical-thinking skills. In short, the possibilities are endless!

Ideas for Using Excel

So, now that you know how great Excel is and what all of the advantages are to using it, what are you actually going to DO with it? First, you need to know that Excel isn't just for the math classroom. You can have students chart and interpret data on virtually any subject. Read on for some neat ideas.

1. The Great M&M Count: Most kids love candy. Why not have each student bring a pack of his or her favorite M&M's one day and do the following: Separate the candy into colors, and count how many pieces of each color there are. Load this data into Excel and create a pie chart and a bar graph. Then have them take turns working several others' charts backwards to re-create the raw data. Of course, at the end of the lesson, the students get to eat their candy!

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