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Using Excel to make tables for functions

Using Excel to make tables for functions

Author: Christopher Danielson

To demonstrate the use of spreadsheets for analyzing change in explicitly defined functions through first differences.

This packet consists of four screen capture videos showing various simple features of spreadsheets.

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An important topic in College Algebra and Precalculus is rate of change. We have lots of language for various ways of thinking about rate of change, including:

  • average rate of change
  • slope
  • difference quotient

Graphing calculators are well set up for analyzing values of functions, but they are not so well set up for analyzing rates of change. In particular, an important tool for this is the idea of finite differences. This packet shows how to use a different tool-a computer spreadsheet-to analyze finite differences (in particular first and second differences).

The set up: Making a table for a function

Whether you use Microsoft Excel (and you probably do) or some other spreadsheet (such as Apple's Numbers or OpenOffice or Google Docs, etc.), the basic functions are all the same. Except for the precise appearance of the tools, I doubt there is any meaningful difference between what you'll see in these videos and what your computer will look like.

For the record, these videos show MS Excel on a Mac.

First differences

This video shows you how to set up your table to analyze first differences.

Putting your table into your Word (or other) document

This video shows you the very simple process of copying and pasting your table from Excel into Word.

Changing your function (much easier than creating the first one)

Once you have your first function set up, Copy, Paste and Fill will let you quickly create the next function without having to start from scratch. This video shows you how.