What is Excel?

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program which allows one to enter numerical values or data into the rows or columns of a spreadsheet, and to use these numerical entries for such things as calculations, graphs, and statistical analysis.

Why use Excel?

Spreadsheets (like Microsoft Excel) can be very useful for student interactive activities, interactive lectures, and instructor use for developing materials for class. Example aspects of spreadsheets that are relevant to science education are:

  • Using Excel as a calculator to explore what mathematical equations can tell us about how the real world works for specific input conditions or for a range of possible values.
    • The calculator can be pre-constructed with a focus on student exploration or students can be guided to construct their own calculators and then explore. The first option saves time but the second option prepares students to use Excel for their own projects and future activities.
  • Graphically displaying equations (analytical models) and real data.
  • Obtaining numerical solutions to more mathematically complex models.
  • Graphically comparing results from a model and observations.
  • Statistical analysis including mean, standard deviation, error bars on graphs, linear and polynomial fits, multivariate analysis, etc.
  • Spectral analysis (Fast Fourier Transforms).
  • Displaying histograms of students results or student response to exams or questions.

How to use Excel?

Microsoft Excel is easy to use and has very many features so the more you use it the more you learn. The Excel spreadsheet has great documentation through the built-in help menu. AutomateExcel will guide you on using the program, though you can always just give it a run!


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