I was reading COLBYS’S BLOG and tried the posted link, where I found (under the Tech Integration section) a techtorial by Lorrie Jackson called “Create Self-Correcting Worksheets”, which caught my eye. I’ve called upon spreadsheets before to generate math problems using the built-in random number generators. I then copied the results to whatever program I was using to typeset them. The idea of having the students use the spreadsheet directly had never occurred to me!

Follow her instructions to get a basic working model, but I have a few suggestions to improve it. I’m attaching my version, an OpenDocument spreadsheet file. *(Update: Er, I would if wordpress would accept .ods files. Contact me if you would like a copy in some other format.)* I recommend following her instructions to turn it into a template file, though.

My first concern was that savvy students would realize that the formula in the happy face/sad face column contained the answer. We’re going to break her “Question” column up into 4 separate columns. For instance, “1+1=?” becomes 1,+,1,=”=?”. All the equal signs and quotes are necessary to have “=?” in the 4th column. Then you can have an answer-checking formula that actually adds the numbers itself, so it doesn’t show the answer. This solves my second concern, which was that changing all the answers in the formulas was tedious. For instance, my first “Correct?” column entry has the formula:

=IF(E2="";"";IF(E2=A2+C2;"J";"L"))

Notice that I also added the extra “IF” statement on the outside so that students don’t get a response if they haven’t typed anything yet.

My third concern was that typing all the possible problems was a pain, and this is where my background comes in handy. Use the random number functions! Instead of typing numbers into the new columns A and C, I just typed in the formula “=RANDBETWEEN(0;9)”, which generates a random integer between 0 and 9, inclusively. Change the numbers to suit your purposes. This would even work great for practicing with negative integers. You can fill and/or paste this formula down those two columns. This has the added benefit that the student’s problems are randomly generated when she opens the spreadsheet template.

Finally, I wanted to add a little glitz to the smiley faces. I know many people are color blind, but I’d like the sad faces to be red and the happy faces to be green. I can do that too. I made all the text of the Correct? column (except the header) red first. Then select the same range again and use the conditional formatting feature of your spreadsheet to color them green if the column matches “J”. You’re done! If people demand it, I can write more readable instructions in the future. Let me know.

## Why?!

Feedback! Feedback! Feedback!

Give your students as much feedback as possible. It also helps them start to realize the power of spreadsheets. Plus, you’re not limited to numbers here; I’ve thought that this might be a fun way to check making simple words plural. Writing the answer-checking formula is more complicated, but you only have to do it once. How else can you write a worksheet by writing just one problem?