Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 113–129 | Cite as

Spreadsheets as cognitive tools: A study of the impact of spreadsheets on problem solving of math story problems

  • Kostas Lavidas
  • Vasilis Komis
  • Vasilis Gialamas


In this study, we investigated the impact of computer spreadsheets on the problem solving practices of students for math story problems, and more specifically on the transition from arithmetic to algebraic reasoning, through the construction of algebraic expressions. We investigated the relationships among the students’ prior knowledge and skills, the verification processes, and the effectiveness of the problem solving tasks. For identifying the factors involved in the problem solving process and their role, in our analysis we employed the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach. We mainly focused on math story problems and on students of tertiary education with little prior experience on the use of computers and spreadsheets. Analysis of the data indicates that spreadsheets can support the transition from arithmetic to algebraic reasoning and this transition is influenced by prior skills of the students relevant to the interaction with the interface (enter formula skills), and the students’ frequency of verification of the solution.


Problem solving Spreadsheets Cognitive tool Story problems Algebraic expressions Solution verification Structural Equation Modeling Algebraic reasoning 



We would like to thank the students of the Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education of the University of Patras for their participation in this study, and the anonymous reviewers for their very constructive and insightful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kostas Lavidas
    • 1
  • Vasilis Komis
    • 1
  • Vasilis Gialamas
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood EducationUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Department of Early Childhood EducationNational and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece

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