Thursday, March 17, 2005

Spreadsheets--Surface Area

I've decided to conduct another technology experiment with my lab rats, I mean students. I just finished introducing surface area (actually review, they've had it since the fifth grade) to my first period class. Instead of teaching it the old paper-pencil way, I'm going the spreadsheet route. I'm feeling that by giving them a worksheet with several problems and having them use the spreadsheet to find the surface area, they will learn the procedure as well or better than they would with a calculator and pencil-paper.

Why? For one, the spreadsheet gives immediate feedback. If they don't write the function for finding the surface area correctly, the number they are expecting to get will not appear in the cell where the sum goes. Another reason is that students can't be on auto pilot when they use the spreadsheet. With each new problem, they write the function for finding the sum of of the areas they have entered, once again going over the procedure again in their head. However, hand them a worksheet and calculator and their actions seem to be automated--no thought required, just the tapping of keys and the moving of a pencil. Finally, it is was immediately apparent that many of my students thought this was somewhat exciting--giving the spreadsheet the command and having it give the result, knowing they had done it correctly. Far more motivating than the same old pencil-paper and calculator math of old.

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