How-To: Use the Microsoft Excel AutoFill Feature to Fill In a Sequence of Numbers

Curriculum Area: English/ Mathematics/ Studies of Society and Environment/ Science

Grade Level: Yrs 2 and up

Application: Microsoft® Excel 2002

Tip: Use the Microsoft Excel AutoFill feature to automatically fill in groups of cells.

Description: When you need to type a sequence of numbers into a group of cells, the AutoFill feature is the way to go. Just let Excel know what starting number or numbers to use, and the program fills in the rest of the numbers in sequence in the blink of an eye. Excel can also fill in a range of dates by days, weekdays, months, or years. A more advanced fill feature lets you fill in a range of numbers using a Growth Trend, which increases the numbers by doubling, tripling, and so on. If you are looking to fill in a range of times, Excel can do that, too.

Curriculum Ideas:
  • Fill a range of cells with a sequence of numbers such as 1-20, so students can keep track of their 20 observations that take place during a science experiment.
  • Fill a range of cells with the multiples of twos, threes, fours, and so on, to create a study sheet for the multiplication facts.
  • Fill a range of cells with a sequence of dates, so students can keep track of their daily homework assignments.
  • Fill a range of cells with the weekdays for the current month for recording daily temperatures during the school day.
  • Fill a range of cells with a sequence of dates and times, so students can record their daily exercises in PE.

How To:
  1. Start Excel 2002 and make sure a new workbook is open.
  2. Click in a cell where you want a series of numbers (sequential numbers) to start. Type the first number in the sequence, and in the next cell, type the second number.
  3. Select the two numbers (both cells), and then drag the AutoFill handle of the second cell as far as needed. (The AutoFill handle is the small black box found at the bottom-right corner of the cell-your mouse will change to a crosshair when you are in the right spot.) You will see the sequential numbers on the right side of the AutoFill handle as you drag, so use this as a guide so you know when to stop dragging.
  4. Try filling a range of cells with the multiples of numbers such as the twos or threes. Start by typing 2 then 4 in adjacent cells. Select both cells, and then drag the AutoFill handle of the second cell to fill with multiples. What a quick way to create the multiplication tables to study from!
  5. Next, try filling a range of cells with dates. Type a date in a cell, but this time, drag the AutoFill handle with the right mouse button so you can decide how you want to fill the cells. Select Fill Days, Fill Weekdays, Fill Months, or Fill Years. The range of cells will now be filled for you so you don't have to type them from scratch.
  6. Experiment with filling by Growth Trend (counting by doubling, tripling, etc.). Start with two numbers such as 1 and 2. Select the two numbers (both cells), and then drag the AutoFill handle of the second cell with the right mouse button as far as needed. When you release the right mouse button, select Growth Trend from the list of choices. The rest of the cells will be filled in with growth numbers-1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.
Did You Know...?
If the content of a cell ends with a number, Excel can fill a range of cells with the next few items in sequence. For example, if you were to type "Table 1" in a cell and then drag the AutoFill handle of this cell, Excel will fill in "Table 2," "Table 3," and so on. This is a pretty cool way of filling in a group of cells with little effort.

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