Investigation 12

Spreadsheet Explorations

Charles Meyer


In this investigation I will look at the power of spreadsheets in the mathematics classroom. I hope to show that spreadsheets can be a very useful tool to both teachers and students in the understanding of some mathematics applications.


I will investigate a problem that involves four numbers as well as the absolute value of the difference of those numbers. My goal is to find when or if the four numbers will be reduced to zero.


I need to begin by setting up the spreadsheet I wish to use. I will have in the first row, four numbers, one in each of the four columns. In the second and following rows, I will have the formulas |A-B|, |B-C|, |C-D|, and |D-A|. So that as the numbers move down the rows of the spreadsheet, the absolute values change until all cells are filled with zeros.

After many trials, the most rows I could achieve before reaching all zeros was eight.


This investigation shows the power of the spreadsheet. If given a similar type of assignment fifteen years ago, a high school student may struggle for hours to find a similar answer. However, with a spreadsheet and the proper formulas, the answer can be found in less than five seconds.


Back to main page