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Study Guides > Mathematics for the Liberal Arts

E1.01: Overview

Topic E. Using a Spreadsheet

The illustrations in this Topic are from Excel, but all spreadsheets work similarly on the basic topics. Practice on whatever spreadsheet is available to you.   Expect to have questions. Please allow time for that and make a place in your notebook to write those questions and the answers you find. And NEVER SPEND MORE THAN 5 MINUTES STUCK on something involving computer software. Instead, write down your question and ask it during the next class or office hours.


  1. Learn the details of the particular computer you’re using. Turn it on, find and open the program, open it.
  2. Basics:
    1. Enter data by typing it in.
    2. Enter patterned data efficiently (usually for the input values, or the x-values)
    3. Enter a formula (usually for the output values, or the y-values)
    4. Copy a formula into other cell.
    5. Print and/or save the worksheet.
    6. Copy a set of data from a table on the web into the spreadsheet.
    7. Relative cell locations versus absolute cell locations.
  3. Graphs
    1. Make a graph of a formula onto a rectangular coordinate system.
    2. Make a graph of two different formulas on the same axes, so that they can easily be compared.
    3. For a given input value, use the graph to estimate the output value.
    4. For a given output value, use the graph to estimate the input value that would give that output.
    5. Use the spreadsheet to look “more closely” at some particular portion of the graph.
    6. Optional:       Changing the titles, labels, and scale along the axes.
  4. Formulas and functions.
    1. Know when and how to insert extra parentheses into formulas to make Excel compute correctly.
    2. Use these built-in functions: SQRT, AVERAGE, MAX, MIN, STDEV.
  5. Explore how the graphs of formulas change as the parameters change.

Section 1. Starting the program.

You’ll use the computer in the classroom and then a computer at home or in a computer lab to do your homework. Fill in this chart.
Classroom Where I do homework
Login  (Username / password)
Name of the spreadsheet program

Licenses & Attributions

CC licensed content, Shared previously

  • Mathematics for Modeling. Authored by: Mary Parker and Hunter Ellinger. License: CC BY: Attribution.