Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets & Databases in High School Mathematics
The modern mathematics classroom has changed dramatically over the years. Many tools of technology have revolutionized mathematics. For decades, even centuries, mathematical computations were done by hand and took an extensive amount of time to complete. There have been many efforts to assist in complex computations using tools such as an Abacus or the slide rule. Mathematics was dramatically changed with the advent of the calculator. In the late 1980’s, the introduction of spreadsheet and database software, such as Microsoft Excel, saved time and effort of handwriting, typewriting, and correcting numerical computations.
According to Robyler and Doering, spreadsheets can have a significant impact on education. Spreadsheets can save time, organize information, support inquiring questions and increase the motivation of students to work with mathematics (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 122-125). In the classroom, spreadsheet and database software are used among all age groups to support project-based learning. They can be used for instruction and projects or as productivity tools for things like grade-books or attendance. While both spreadsheets and databases deal with numbers and data analysis, each is unique in its function and purpose.
Spreadsheets can improve teaching approaches and productivity (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p.125-126). They have several unique benefits in the classroom as outlined in the text:
- Make possible visual teaching demonstrations
- Support student projects
- Support mathematical problem solving
- Store and allow analysis of data
- Enhance grading systems
The Online Learning Library defines a database as “the basic electronic information storage unit… [it] is a collection of information organized to provide efficient retrieval. The collected information could be in any number of formats (electronic, printed, graphic, audio, statistical, combinations). There are physical (paper/print) and electronic databases.”
A database could be as simple as an alphabetical arrangement of names in an address book or as complex as a database that provides information in a combination of formats.
- phone book
- address book
- Census Bureau data
The website, TeachNology elaborates,
Creating a database of any kind requires students to critically think from the very beginning. Maintaining that same database requires students to revisit those initial levels of thought and move to a higher plane of thought. Manipulating a database requires students to basically “Think Outside the Box!” It enables students to reach higher levels of thinking as students:
1) identify unique characteristics of the data;
2) find qualities of the data to compare and contrast; and
3) take that same data and rank the importance of that data for themselves.
The site continues on to explore the relationship between creating learning environments rich with database activities and Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Using spreadsheets and databases in the mathematics classroom is an easy fit. It allows students to process significant amounts of data and to simplify complex computations. This allows students to focus on the applications of this information. This allows students to visualize careers in marketing, finance, accounting, and many more fields. However, the applications of spreadsheets and databases expand well beyond typical mathematical fields.
Spreadsheets are excellent for teaching students how to compare and question data. Most importantly, spreadsheets make students comfortable with numbers an applying them to real-life situations (Thorsen, 1997). Spreadsheets can enhance a student’s educational experience by making the manipulation and organization of information so easy. Students and teachers can save time by taking advantage of the calculation formulas spreadsheets offer. Spreadsheets and databases also present data in an easy-to-read format, thus making proof-reading and analysis much easier. Students have more time to carefully and thoughtfully synthesize and analyze data when it is well organized and presented in an attractive display (Roblyer, 2013). The relative advantages of using spreadsheets and databases is that it encourages and allows the students to perform complex searches, conduct findings, and use the data for intense analysis. Spreadsheets and databases are tools in the classroom that make learning motivational and self-directed.
Bloom’s Taxonomy http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html
Gyssens, M., Jeavons, P. G., & Cohen, D. A. (1994). Decomposing constraint satisfaction problems using database techniques. Artificial Intelligence, 66(1), 57-89. Retrieved from
Miller, S. P., & Mercer, C. D. (1993). Using data to learn concrete-semiconcrete-abstract instruction for students with math disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/psycinfo/1994-23423-001
Online Learning Library http://www.usg.edu/galileo/skills/unit04/primer04_01.phtml
Roblyer, M.D. & Doerling, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Thorsen, C. D., & Barr, R. D. (1997). Computer competencies for teacher educators. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 1997, No. 1, pp. 39-42). Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/p/46997
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