The Cruncher 2.0 - Spreadsheets: A Rich Learning Experience
I have always been a fan of spreadsheets and have used them in my classroom, as well as for personal use. Using spreadsheets facilitates student understanding of mathematical concepts and can assist in achieving the NCTM standards, as well as address concerns raised by the TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) report.
When you start The Cruncher 2.0, the main screen presents you with three options: Spreadsheet, Tutorials and Projects. "Spreadsheet" allows you to dive into an area where you can create a spreadsheet from scratch, adding any formulas, charts, electronic stickers and/or sounds that you or your students feel enhance the understanding of the problem you are solving.
'"Tutorials" teaches spreadsheet concepts starting from the very basics to an introduction to mathematical functions. Each of the six included tutorials is interactive, guiding the user through each step with sound and animation. For example, in Tutorial 1: Fish Out of Water students are introduced to spreadsheet terms and concepts.
In "Projects" there are 20 spreadsheet templates for use in cross-curricular applications such as Math, Language Arts, Science, Astronomy, Social Studies, Geography and Art. The Teacher's Guide includes a wealth of reproducible activity sheets to accompany each project. Students will enjoy seeing immediate results as graphs can be drawn from the data they enter. Each project comes with suggested assessments and extension activities. In addition, HyperStudio application ideas are included with each project. You may also create and save your own projects as templates.
Several features in The Cruncher 2.0 facilitate the understanding of mathematics. A Notebook allows students to write down and explain what is occurring mathematically. The Show feature explains how the computer calculates each expression, breaking down complex mathematical ideas into a step-by-step process.
Charts are a breeze to create and use. Snapshots may be taken of the screen and transferred to reports, HyperStudio or other multimedia projects. Finally, an Internet feature allows you to create links to the Web from within any spreadsheet.
While I enjoyed working with The Cruncher 2.0, it is not without its flaws. The Macintosh version that I installed suffered from serious time lag problems. I contacted the technical support, and although they were extremely knowledgeable and ran me through multiple ideas for addressing this problem, none of the suggestions were solutions. This problem would make it difficult to use in the classroom. Overall, I recommend the program for Windows users.
Louis L'effler is Coordinator of Instructional Technology at New Berlin Public School. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.