A spreadsheet is one of the fundamental tools for thinking in the computer age. If you are not already using one at some level, please find a way to begin. It is one of the great devices for trial-and-error learning, and it will enlarge your relationship to numbers.

Suppose you export (download) your gradebook to Excel on your computer and want to count how many quizzes each student completed inside a certain portion of the gradebook. You might do this, say, at midterm.

Assuming the criterion is a score of 90, you want to count every cell that contains 90 or above, and get the total number of such cells for each student.

If you are working with only a portion of the gradebook, you may find it easier to duplicate the downloaded gradebook, and, on the duplicate, delete everything except those columns you are working with. This helps reduce Newsroom 101’s monster gradebook to a smaller species.

In Excel, open the selection from your gradebook. Then adapt the following Excel formula to get those counts:

*Excel command to count cells in range A2:AU2 containing a number greater than 90:*

=COUNTIF(A2:AU2,”>=90″)

This formula counts each cell in the range A2:AU2 (“Where”) that contains a number that is equal to or greater than 90 (“By what criteria”). Note the quotation marks around “>=90”.

Replace A2:AU2 with the range of cells you want the formula to work on in your instance. Verify that 90 is the correct standard.

Copy this formula alongside the first row, then hit return and the cell containing the formula should display your count.

If this is so, copy and paste the formula in front of each of the other rows.

Make sure your method of copy leaves the cell range intact. Some ways of copying increment those numbers row by row. Incrementing in a copy is useful in some applications, but not here.

I can’t guarantee this Excel formula will work on other brands of spreadsheet, but if it does not, they will have a comparable formula.

If you get stuck, ask around for someone who knows a bit more Excel than you do.