i-nth logo


Maria Csernoch & Piroska Biro


Spreadsheet programs appeared on the market around 30 years ago, and they are now among the most widely used programming systems. Studies have shown that there is a high incidence of errors in spreadsheets; up to 90% in some cases. Studies have also been attempting to find an explanation for this failure. However, most research has been carried out on completed and saved spreadsheets documents.

With a sample of 730 students and 134 teachers, we conducted paper-based testing to document in-execution-errors. It was found that the in-execution-errors of spreadsheet formulas are as frequent as any other types of errors. The results of analyzing the sources of in-execution-errors lead us to recommend guidelines for teachers. The teachers' results show that they are in need of these guidelines.

It will be shown in this paper that a previously unknown metacognitive approach, which can be categorized as a surface approach, has emerged in the spreadsheet environment; the trial-and-error wizard-based approach (TAEW-based). We prove that the TAEW-based approach is not sufficient to create correct spreadsheet formulas, and consequently to solve spreadsheet problems.


Percentage of correct answers
Percentage of correct answers

Given common spreadsheet tasks, using a paper-based testing method, both students and teachers achieved very low percentages of correct answers.


2013, Hungarian Conference on Educational Research, 13-14 June

Full article

Spreadsheet misconceptions, spreadsheet errors