Sunday, August 24, 2008

Organizing and Teaching with Spreadsheets.

ORGANIZING
Every year, one of the first things I do to get ready for the new school year is import student data into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet serves many purposes throughout the year. I mail merge student names into a label document to print out labels for student planners and take-home folders. I record assignments of textbooks, calculators, locks, and lockers. The formulas feature makes calculating growth on test scores a breeze. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, it helps me answer the question that takes me off guard about three times a year, "How many students do you have on your team?"

TEACHING MATH
One of the best teaching strategies I've implemented in the past couple of years requires students to store collected data in spreadsheets. One of our class activities at the beginning of the year has students working in groups to measure each students' height, arm span, resting heart rate, exercising heart rate, wrist, neck, thumb, foot length, and stride length. The data is used for multiple purposes throughout the course of the year. We make scatter plots to determine relationships between different data. We use the data for five number summaries, box-and-whisker plots, frequency tables (line plots), stem and leaf plots, and histograms. We make circle graphs and bar graphs to demonstrate misleading graphs and displays of data. The spreadsheet software only makes a few of these graphs, but putting the data into a spreadsheet accomplishes a few critical objectives. One, the data is stored electronically under the students' profile and less likely to be lost. Two, students accomplish some of the technology curriculum by creating formulas, sorting data and graphing data using spreadsheets. And Three, students can easily reorganize the data to make it more readable for a specific application. I strongly recommend reserving the computer lab anytime students are collecting data. Even if you don't have access to the computer lab when you're using the data, any student can access the data on the classroom computer and share with the class.

Tammy Worcester has developed an extensive list of spreadsheet enhanced lessons for all grade levels. I would be remiss if I posted this blog without providing a link to her website.