by Lorien E. Menhennett
I’m no stranger to Excel. I’ve made plenty of graphs and charts throughout school, especially in the science courses I’ve been taking in the last two years. But the formulas and functions that spreadsheet programs can do? Not so much. I’ve always done that work by hand. (Correction, with a calculator.)
Now that I’m taking statistics, I’ve got a LOT of calculations to do. So doing them one by one, cell by cell, would simply take forever. Luckily, last Friday my stats professor showed us how to do a number (no pun intended) of basic calculations within Excel itself. (Although at home, I’m not using Excel – I’m using Apple’s Numbers program, which is an Excel equivalent. And I’ve found that the calculations work pretty much the same, thankfully.)
This is just a basic stats course, and it’s the beginning of the semester, so we haven’t gotten to anything too complicated yet. But using a spreadsheet program to compute the sample mean (i.e., average), variance, and standard deviation is so handy. I was even kind of having fun doing my stats homework … really. It was almost like magic. After entering my data points, I’d go to a new cell, hit the “equal” sign, and then do my thing. Multiply, divide, square, you name it. Then click-and-drag to do the same operation down an entire column. Of course, the program is only as smart as you are, so you’ve got to input everything correctly. And that can take some getting used to. But I think I’ve got the hang of basic operations, at least.
Now, the question is, what am I going to do with all the time I’m saving?