AAA Presentation on Critical Thinking in Excel

With the COVID 2020 pandemic, the Western AAA Meeting was pushed online. Below is a video of my presentation!

Below is an abstract highlighting the findings.

This presentation reports on the second year of results from an interactive Excel formula trainer. FormulaTrainer shows students how to write formulas through an adaptive browser-based system. The site walks students through basic math features, as well as a summary, text, date, and conditional functions.

Analyzing student activity logs from 3 different institutions shows that a major source of difficulty is brittle and inflexible learning.  While most students can easily use an arithmetic operation or function in isolation, they struggle to combine them. For example, while most students can easily increase a number by a decimal, many struggle to decrease it by a percentage.  Similarly, using a mathematic operation inside of a ROUND function increases its difficulty.

Overall, students struggle with critical thinking and problem solving. This session will show examples of concepts that students find difficult, mapped into testable Knowledge Components. Participants will leave with a better understanding of student struggles, and ideas on how to better teach Excel.