Programming with spreadsheets – START NOW!

I’ve heard a lot of math teachers comment (to me personally) how difficult it is to integrate math into their classes. Most of the time these teachers just use apps on iPads or use websites like IXL, Mathletics or more to have students practice skills and then track the students progress. That’s fine and those apps do provide a much needed service especially in the data rich educational classroom of today.

But there is another way, an older way, that can directly tie your lessons into technology. I’m talking about using spreadsheets. Now let me be clear, you can do this with Excel, Numbers (Mac only), OpenOffice, NeoOffice (Mac only), LibreOffice, Google Sheets or Zoho Docs. Yep, that’s a lot of different programs, but the process should be nearly identical regardless. You will be teaching your students to use a spreadsheet to solve math problems. As long as you have access to any of these programs you can do this.

Right now, my sixth grade class is working on volume and surface area of rectangular prisms. Volume is pretty easy, you just multiply the length, width and height. The surface is a bit more complicated as you need to find the area of each side and then add those values up. It’s not hard to say or even wrap your head around but doing the math by hand can often lead to simple mistakes that wreck the whole problem.

I can hear people now “They need to understand what they’re doing!” Yes, yes, yes we’ve practiced surface area ad nauseam and I feel pretty confident they can calculate it, so we’re past that. Now onto the fun stuff – setting up a spreadsheet to do the work for them.

This was their first time really working with a spreadsheet so I expected a lot of questions and confusion. I had to explain the following concepts:
Cell reference
– How to enter equations using the equal sign
– The asterisks (*) as the multiplication symbol

This confusion will pass due to the repetition of the equations that you must enter. The real magic happens when you start to duplicate the formulas and it starts to solve them automatically. The reaction of my students was awesome!

You can do this with just about any equation and I would even try it with students as young as fourth grade. Once a student understands an equation thoroughly enough, they can enter it into a spreadsheet and let it do the heavy lifting.

This is a great start for students because there is so much more they can do such as make their own gradebook, customize their spreadsheets using conditional formatting, need help with more math equations, then you can empower them spreadsheets!

I’ll put my instructions in another post and include a download link for the PDF.

Patrick Cauley – @itbabble

Papier – A Chrome extension worth checking out

We’ve talked about Chrome extensions before on the podcast (you should subscribe by the way) and even written about them here.

So let’s add one more to the pile. When you open a new tab, you will see a blank canvas where you can type out notes. You can use bold, italics, strikeout and underline as well so making some emphasis on notes is a breeze. You can do these through global shortcut keys. You can’t change color, type or size of the font but then again this all you’re doing here is taking notes. Maybe a reminder to pick up milk, call a parent or some cool factoid you want to share with your students. It’s quite handy.

You do have some options though. In the bottom left hand corner there are options where you can change some text. You can also change it from day mode to night mode depending on what you prefer and you have the option to print or export the notes. Another really handy feature is the character count. In their video you see them add emojis. They are just utilizing the built in emojis on a Mac laptop which you can bring up by hitting ctrl + command + space.

What’s neat about this, if you close the tab, even close Chrome and reopen it, your notes will still be there! Of course if you reset Chrome it will probably go, but when I cleared the browisng data I surprisingly found my note there!

So if you need a way to organize all those thoughts and remidners everyday in class, give Papier a try.


Our favorite Chrome Extensions/Add-ons

At IT Babble Chrome is our browser of choice for its speed, its auto updates and the myriad of fantastic add-ons you can … well add on. These add-ons give Chrome various different functionalities and we thought it would be nice to share our favorites with you! We discussed these extensions and add-ons quickly on Episode 103 of our podcast but here is a more detailed list in case you were wondering. If you have some favorites of your own please add them in the comments below.

Remember you need to be using Chrome in order for these to work (there is one exception on Tony’s list).

To find these enhancements just look in the Google Chrome store.

In general

The first one I think we all recommend is Ad Block or Ad Block Plus. You can probably guess that it blocks annoying ads that may pop up or flash while you are on the site. It works most of the time and really does improve your time on the Interwebs.


Stayfoucsed – This extension blocks you from going to time wasting websites. You pick the websites, pick how much time a day you want to allow yourself on those websites and it keeps you from going there after your time is up. Great for procrastinators!


CheckerPlus for Gmail – This puts a little gmail icon right next to your browser address bar (or omnibar as I think it is actually called). This shows you how many unread email messages you have in Gmail and you can click on it, read, reply or compose emails right from this extension. Hell, it’ll even read them to you if you’d like!


Eye Dropper – Have you ever been to a website and wondered what color a font, banner, or design was? Eye dropper will find out exactly what that color is. It’s simple and easy to use and I use it surprisingly a lot.


Pocket – This is a great service. There are times when I find an article or web page that I want to keep for myself, the podcast or my students. Using this extension, I just click the pocket button and it is saved (even offline) in a beautiful, ad free reformatted so its very easy to read view.


Grammarly – Ever sent an email with a glaringly misspelled word or some poor grammar? This will help to correct that. Tim even says that it sends reports to you to show how you are progressing. Pretty sweet!


Momentum – When you open a new tab in Chrome, it shows the Google omnibar and the eight most popular websites you’ve visited. This replaces that with an inspirational quotes, a to-do list of your own creation and a beautiful images. Not a bad way to open a new tab huh?


Reddit Enhancement Suite – Do you read Reddit? Of course you do. Now download this extension to better improve your experience. Tim loves it and so should you.


Evernote Web Clipper – If you use Evernote, you need this. It will clip images, articles, web pages, etc. and put it right into whatever notebook you want. I had it on my list too, but not to be redundant I left it off.


Firebug OK this one cheats a little bit because it isn’t a Google Chrome extension. It is a Firefox extension, but it is awesome. Have you ever wondered what the code is of a certain part of a webpage? Firebug will tell you. If you deal with any sort of website management at all this is a very helpful tool.

Pixlr Editor – Need to edit a photo but need to do more than just resize it or crop it? Don’t have Photoshop or another powerful image editor on your computer. Pixlr to the rescue. It’s free, web based and pretty powerful considering that you can do layers and have a variety to a large amount of tools.