How to Use Excel to Teach Math Arrays

Grade Level: 5th (or whichever grade you are teaching arrays)

Background: None. This is an intro to MS Excel or spreadsheets

Vocabulary: Excel, cell, rows, columns, paint bucket, borders, arrays, resize, formulas

Time: About 30 minutes


  • Open Excel or your preferred spreadsheet program. Review the basics–how to identify a cell (where the column and row intersect), what’s on the toolbars, especially where the paint bucket and border tools are found
  • Resize the cells so they are square. Here’s how you do that:
    • Select the cell at the top left where rows and columns intersect. That will select the entire worksheet.
    • Set the row height to 25 pixels by clicking the line between row 1 and 2 and dragging it to a 25 pixel size.
    • Set the column width to 25 pixels the same way
    • When yo click out of the en
  • tire worksheet selection, the cells will resize. It’ll look like graph paper.
  • Add name, teacher, ‘problem’ and ‘array as shown


  • Add the first problem. I’ll use 3*3
  • Add the formula underneath it for the answer

= A5*A6 (Excel automatically calculates the answer for the two digits in A5 and A6)

  • Fill in 3 cells over and 3 cells down to create the array.
  • Use the border tool–all borders to outline each cell in the array


  • Have students do two more of your choice
  • Have students create one of their own, to confirm that they understand


  • Fill in the row with ‘Problem’ and ‘Array’
  • Change font size for the headings

from the Structured Learning Technology series for K-5

–Click for 5 bundled Excel lesson plans (for a fee)

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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