Collaborative Group for Research in Mathematics Education


Using spreadsheets to enhance algebraic understanding

Project team: Gary Davis, Russell Jonathan

This research project focused on the effects of a ten lessons on using spreadsheets on secondary students' skills in, and understanding of, algebra. The spreadsheet lessons included standard spreadsheet functions, constructing multiplication tables, building shop accounts, and word problems.


An investigation into the use of spreadsheets as a resource for teaching algebraic concepts
Russell Kyle Jonathan
Dissertation, M.A.(Ed.) - University of Southampton, School of Education, 1997.

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Selected bibliography

Arad, Ofar S. (1987) The Spreadsheet: Solving Word Problems. Computing Teacher, 14(4), 13-15.
Abstract: Presents several examples of algebraic word problems and demonstrates how spreadsheets are used to solve the problems. Spreadsheet templates are included to illustrate how each problem is solved.

Arnold, S. (1992) Algebra by Computer. Australian Mathematics Teacher, 48(4), 28-32.
Abstract: Describes the use of three computer tools used to enhance the teaching and learning of algebra: the spreadsheet, LOGO, and computer algebra tools. Examines the strengths of each tool and presents practical considerations for their use.

Day, R. P. (1993) Solution Revolution. Mathematics Teacher, 86(1), 15-24 .
Abstract: Explores alternative strategies to solve algebraic equations that do not lend themselves to traditional methods. Examines one nontraditional equation by a graphical approach using a graphing utility and by a numerical approach using spreadsheets. Discusses new basic skills for algebra utilizing technology. Provides a computer program to solve equations by the bisection method.

Dickey, E. M. (1993) The Golden Ratio: A Golden Opportunity to Investigate Multiple Representations of a Problem. Mathematics Teacher, 86(7), 554-557.
Abstract: This article explores the multiple representations (verbal, algebraic, graphical, and numerical) that can be used to study the golden ratio. Emphasis is placed on using technology (both calculators and computers) to investigate the algebraic, graphical, and numerical representations.

Hersberger, J. & Frederick, B. (1995) Flower Beds and Landscape Consultants: Making Connections in Middle School Mathematics. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 1(5), 364-367.
Abstract: Presents an activity through which students develop mathematical concepts connected to area and perimeter in a rich, real-life setting and use tables, graphs, diagrams, and spreadsheets to explore the problem, see relationships, and make and test conjectures about those relationships. Encourages algebraic thinking.

Pinter-Lucke, C. (1992) Rootfinding with a Spreadsheet in Pre-Calculus. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 11(1), 85-93.
Abstract: This article provides pedagogical techniques that require active student participation in the use of computer spreadsheets while determining recursive numerical solutions to equations. Included are several computer screen displays which illustrate the various advantages in using spreadsheets specific to synthetic division, the bisection method, and Newton's method.

Sen, T. et al. (1996) Two Car-Buying Strategies: An Old Problem Revisited with a New Analysis. Mathematics Teacher, 89(3), 196-199.
Abstract: Demonstrates the application of spreadsheet analysis in solving equations beyond quadratics. Considers the costs of interest, gasoline, and maintenance in deciding how long it pays to keep a car.

Sutherland, R. (1993) Consciousness of the Unknown. For the Learning of Mathematics, 13(1), 43-46.
: Analyzes case study data of 10 low achieving students, ages 14-15, to examine the effects of participation in computer spreadsheet sessions on their understanding of mathematical symbols. Participation improved students' attitudes toward problem solving.

Sutherland, R. & Rojano, T. (1993) A Spreadsheet Approach to Solving Algebra Problems. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 12(4), 353-83.
Abstract: This longitudinal study investigated the ways in which two groups of eight students used spreadsheets to represent and solve algebra problems and related this to their previous arithmetical experiences and evolving use of symbolic language. The spreadsheet environment supported students to move from specific to general thinking. Includes story problems used.

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