Active Calculus Activities in Google Sheets

Erica Miller of VCU had a brilliant idea:  set up AC activities in Google sheets for remote teaching so that her students can work in breakout groups on a shared document.  Dave Kung learned about this in an MAA-sponsored session on teaching remotely and had the idea to crowdsource building the sheets; he posted on the Active Calculus Users Group and lots of people have pitched in.

Currently there are templates for Activities 2.7.2 – 4.4.4 for the first four chapters.   Make sure you start with “Read Me First” in the first tab, and follow the instructions to either (a) contribute missing activities, or (b) use the activities with your students yourself.  Activities for Chapters 5-8 in this format are just getting started; more people are needed to contribute to making the tab for each activity.

The basic idea is that each tab in these two shared spreadsheets will hold a template for student responses to the activity, and then anyone who wants to use it can copy the tab to a new worksheet, make n tabs for n groups in their own course, and then have their students work synchronously in breakout groups in Zoom, BB Collaborate, or however.

Erica, thanks for having and sharing such a great idea.  Dave, thanks for getting the community to work to pitch in on this.  I hope others will join and help round out the collection.



  1. This is a fantastic idea!! I was wondering why these were set up as Sheets (spreadsheet) rather than Docs (like a Word document). Wouldn’t typesetting equations be easier in a Doc? Is there any advantage to a sheet, besides the ability to group everything together conveniently through tabs?

    1. My understanding is that the main reason Sheets was chosen over Docs is that it enables the instructor to be able to more easily toggle among groups while students work, plus it enables a single URL for where to send the students for the activity and then direct them to a tab. Maybe there’s a better way, but I think if a person wanted to do it in Docs and had 8 groups, they’d need to have 8 separate Google docs, each with an individual URL, to send the students to.

      1. Thanks, that makes sense, and is a nice consolidated way of doing things. I’ll have a small number of groups, so I think I will create a master doc, and will distribute that one link to students. Within that master doc, I will place links to the breakout room docs. I wanted to have a master doc anyway that could serve as a backchannel for chatting during breakout rooms, since Zoom won’t let the breakout groups message the host (only raise hands). So the master doc will contain a link to Breakout Doc i and a space for questions from Breakout Room i, for i = 1,…,n. I can monitor the master doc for questions, as well as open each group’s doc in a separate browser tab. And students and I can typeset equations using the equation editor.

  2. If you’re willing to share a version (copy) of what you come up with, I’d love to post it here and on the Active Calculus Google Group for others to consider.

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