Spreadsheets, They Aren’t Just for Math Problems

Spreadsheets, and the software used to create them like Excel (PC) and Numbers (Mac), are a perfect fit for math and science classrooms where many mathematical calculations must be performed and tracked.  Students will gain valuable skills utilizing spreadsheets in these classes.  However, students can also use spreadsheets effectively in Language Arts classes. Len Vacher (2012) explains that any “course that uses tables and graphs is an opportunity for students to become more quantitatively literate” through the use of spreadsheets.

Using spreadsheets for non-mathematical means will push students to gain organizational skills that they can continue to apply outside of the classroom. For example, Sylvia Cini (n.d.) describes on eHow.com how spreadsheets “may also be used for the production of word tables such as vocabulary lists, word etymology or grammatical elements with explanation.”  If students maintain a single vocabulary document throughout the course of the year, adding a new sheet or page with each new vocabulary unit, they will have a printable vocabulary portfolio at the end of the school year to document their learning.

Spreadsheets can be applied to the Language Arts classroom for the study of literature as well.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) describe how the ability to organize “…data and allow students to perform required descriptive statistical analyses on them” is a key feature of spreadsheets.  Students can track plot events in a timeline, keep track of repetitive uses of imagery or symbolism, or organize lists of characters. This data can be used when writing literary analyses after the reading. 

Spreadsheets are not the normal go-to digital tool in the Language Arts classroom.  However, their utility as tool to track data is really complimentary to many tasks performed in the Language Arts classroom.  Educators would be doing a service to students by enlightening students on the many versatile uses of spreadsheets.



Cini, S. (n.d.). How to Use Spreadsheets in Language Arts | eHow.com. eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you. | eHow.com. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from http://www.ehow.com/how_7909409_use-spreadsheets-language-arts.html

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Vacher, L. (2012, June 12). Teaching with Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum. SERC. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/ssac/index.html


3 thoughts on “Spreadsheets, They Aren’t Just for Math Problems

  1. I agree that spreadsheets and databases are not the normal digital tool to be applied to language arts. However, they can be very beneficial and you provided very good examples of how they can be used. Databases can play a large role in language arts by providing the students with practice in research skills, which a lot of students struggle with. The great thing about these tools is that they can be adjusted and modified to apply to almost any content area. The Microsoft website has a great list of lesson plans and how-to’s that can be used in most content areas. Great post!

  2. Hi Jenny,
    You made several strong arguments of ways in which teachers can apply spreadsheets to Language Arts! As an educator, I was inclined to think only math contents would use such a tool. I liked your idea for the accumulating a vocab list. I think often our students forget what was taught as the units role on – this strategy that you name can help students make use of prior knowledge. I love this idea for Phys. Ed. as well!

  3. Jenny,
    Nice job on your post to include spreadsheet in non-mathematical content. It can be a bit of a stretch at times and you came up with several good ideas. I appreciated your ideas of utilizing spreadsheets for vocabulary and organization.


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