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Using Spreadsheets As Curve Fitting Tools

By B.J. du Plessis, University of Pretoria |

    Spreadsheets have been around almost as long as personal computers. While early versions were clumsy and limited in scope, today’s spreadsheet programs can do almost anything the user wants them to do. These broadened capabilities are made easier through the use of internal (built-in) functions, add-in programs and the use of macro programming. In this article, we explore how spreadsheets can help determine coefficients of an equation from experimental data, without complex or expensive software. Curve fitting, commonly used in engineering, is a technique used to describe experimental data as a mathematical equation in the form y = f(x) where x is the independent variable (controlled by the experimenter) and y is the dependent variable (measured). The better the fit of the equation, the more accurately the function will describe the experimental data. The introduction of personal computers into laboratories greatly reduced the time and effort required to analyze data. Fitting data with simple linear functions by using linear regression equations is a fairly straightforward process. Most spreadsheets can do this with add-in programs or even with built-in functions. Fitting data to more complex, non-linear equations…
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