Adventures in programming

My 8th grade Algebra class is in the midst of a unit on inequalities, which I’ve been trying to spice up with some lessons on basic programming.  Using traditional programming applications, or even programs like Scratch or Alice require downloads and take some time to get used to the environment. Since the programming lessons were only a supplement to the algebra unit, I needed something that allowed the students to program fast. Google spreadsheets provided the solution. In any spreadsheet  you can use simple If statements to make things pop up on screen or change colors when you enter a value or word(s) in a designated cell(s).

Using a google spreadsheet, each student could work on a different table on the same document at the same time. This allowed them to check out the programs that others were writing to get tips and hints. Whenever someone got stuck, I’d tell them to check out another student’s program and see if they could figure it out.  The programming was a hit.

Eventually we’ll move up to Scratch and then Alice, but I think the next step will be Zoho spreadsheets. Zoho spreadsheets recently added the ability to write Visual Basic macros into their spreadsheets. Though the students can also do this in Excel, it doesn’t offer the collaborative capabilities that Google Docs or Zoho offer. I can’t say that I’ve used Sharepoint, which might make this available, but why would I pay for something that’s already available for free.

Put this piece of code into a spreadsheet to see one of the programs a student wrote.  Type in “Door 1” in cell C11 to see what happens.

=IF(C11=”Door 1″, “Party”, IF(C11=”Door 3″, “Drive Away in Sports Car”, IF(C11= “Door 2”, “Fall Into Pit of Snakes”,”<——Choose Your Door”)))


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