Spreadsheets: All Areas of Life



What makes a subject worth studying? At the end of the day, a subject is only as significant as it is practical in everyday life. If math had no applications in the real world, there would be no point in learning it. This fact drives students’ hunger for life application math problems, because this type of problem serves as a window through which students relate math to their life. The task of an effective math teacher, then, is to pose practical problems that challenge students to use a variety of technological tools and critical thinking skills, as this process most nearly mimics situations they will face later in life.

When formulating any problem that will involve technology, it is critical for teachers to make sure that the technology to be used promotes problem analyzation, strategizing, connections across representations, and solution reflection (Dick and Hollebrands, 2011).  Part of this process includes students making decisions about which technology or tool will be most effective in problem solving, so an ideal problem can be solved with multiple methods. This analysis will focus on a real-life application problem which can be solved using spreadsheet software and/or the graphing application Desmos.

Consider the following problem:

Farmer Fran is building a rectangular corral. She has 120 meters of fencing.

  • What are the dimensions of the largest corral she can build?
  • What if she builds her corral adjacent to her barn, so that the barn serves as one side of the corral?

It is worth noting that this problem could be modified in order to appeal to different types of students. For example, this problem could involve 120 cm worth of icing around a cookie cake or 120 yards worth of chalk around a soccer field.

Continue to the next page to see a solving strategy for this problem.