What I actually find ChatGPT useful for [#52]

Fun fact: ChatGPT is really, really bad at math!

What I actually find ChatGPT useful for [#52]

Turns out ChatGPT is useful for a bunch of cases, and not useful at all for a bunch of other cases. And yes, I know ChatGPT came out over a year ago, but I think my advice on good ChatGPT use cases still applies. I'll give a general summary, then go more in-depth on each use case.

Here's my list of great use cases:

  • menial information tasks
  • coding (esp in zsh & excel)
  • asking for generalized 'summaries' of stuff
  • as a conversation partner

I'd stray away from these use cases:

  • coming up with funny content
  • asking about hard math or science problems
  • calculating anything remotely important

Useful Cases

Menial Information Tasks

Give ChatGPT enough prompting, and it's easy for it to chug through repetitive tasks. For example: I took AP Psychology this year through Outlier. For each section of the course, I had to grab flashcards from Quizlet and turn them into Cloze format, which is the flashcard type I mainly use for Anki.

Quizlet format (what I started with):

alarm reaction
Characterized as the body's immediate physiological reaction to a threatening situation or some other emergency; analogous to the fight-or-flight response; first stage of the general adaptation syndrome

A psychophysiological disorder in which the airways of the respiratory system become obstructed, leading to great difficulty expelling air from the lungs

cardiovascular disorders
Disorders that involve the heart and blood circulation system

Anki format (which I want):

The {{c1::alarm reaction}} is characterized as the body's immediate physiological reaction to a threatening situation or some other emergency; analogous to the fight-or-flight response; {{c2::first}} stage of the general adaptation syndrome.

{{c1::Asthma}} is a psychophysiological disorder in which the airways of the respiratory system become obstructed, leading to great difficulty expelling air from the lungs.

{{c1::Cardiovascular disorders}} are disorders that involve the heart and blood circulation system.

It's very tedious to do it manually. So I asked ChatGPT to do it, and with a series of prompts and corrections, it outputted reasonably good output every time. I still check the output for inconsistencies, but it's way faster than doing the transfer process manually.


I've recently become better acquainted with Terminal. I've needed to learn a lot of commands, and ChatGPT is surprisingly good at stringing together commands that work in my terminal. One example (from my article on plain text file journaling):

The prompt:

create a zsh command that (1) creates a new 'journalEntries' directory in your Documents directory; (2) sets an alias "edj" (stands for "edit daily journal") that automatically opens a text file with VIM within journalEntries with correct ISO 8601 dating conventions. do it all in one command.

makes ChatGPT return working output:

Certainly! You can use the following Zsh command to achieve what you've described:
mkdir -p ~/Documents/journalEntries && echo 'alias edj="vim ~/Documents/journalEntries/$(date +\%Y-\%m-\%d)journal.txt"' >> ~/.zshrc && source ~/.zshrc

No reprompting needed.

ChatGPT is also real good at Excel / Google Sheets (probably because it has metric tonnes of training data on Excel). I was using Google Sheets the other day, and needed a way to multiply cell A1 by B1, A2 by B2, ..., until A10 by B10. I could look in the documentation, but why would I, when a quick query of:

how to multiply A1 by B1, A2 by B2, etc. all the way to A10 by B10, in Google Sheets

gets ChatGPT to respond with the correct answer:

In Google Sheets, you can use a formula to multiply corresponding cells in two columns. Assuming your data is in columns A and B from rows 1 to 10, you can use the following formula in cell C1:


Generalized Summaries

ChatGPT is excellent at giving quick summaries of things it actually knows about. A quick, simple prompt of 'tell me about [X]' is:

  1. More convenient than using Google (don't have to deal with ads)
  2. Epic cause I can ask ChatGPT follow-up questions

Highly recommend. I use 'tell me about [X]' all the time.

Conversation Partner

If I've had a bad day, or need to discuss something on my mind, ChatGPT is (1) free (I'm certainly not paying $20/month for ChatGPT Plus) and easy to talk to. ChatGPT, is, of course, not a professional therapist, but it's surprisingly good.

Not-Useful Cases

Being Funny

Perhaps this is just due to my bad prompting skills — but ChatGPT is pretty bad at coming up with funny stuff. It can't mimic the style of humorous posts, and it's often too over-the-top when generating content it thinks is funny.

The one exception: it's funny watching it fail when it can't do simple things. But in most cases, it is not funny. If you're trying to write humorous or satirical articles, you're better off writing them yourself.

Math & Science Problems

ChatGPT can't do math. It's just generating the next most likely token of information. This is bad. If I give ChatGPT this prompt:

add. 20+30+50+90+20+50+50+60+40+30+30+25

ChatGPT returns:

The sum of the numbers you provided is 575.

Problematic, because the sum is actually 495. If I ask ChatGPT:

show your work

It returns:

Certainly! Here's the step-by-step calculation:


I added each of the numbers together to get the final sum of 575.

Still wrong. How can you trust an AI who can't do second-grade math to help you with your complex math or science work?

Doing Anything Remotely Important

I took my AP Computer Science A midterm in December. My teacher, who has since been fired for not doing her work, initially gave me a grade of 56/76 (~73.3%) on my midterm. I was skeptical, because according to her, I got 100% on the MCQ section and at least 75% on the FRQ section, which in no world would be adjusted to 56/76. So this Slack chat happened (names removed for privacy):

Wait, why is my midterm grade only 56/76? I thought I got a 100% on the MCQ, 100% on FRQ 1, and at least 50% on FRQ 2.

[teacher] and [head of school] wanted more specific percentages for the midterm - for reports to parents. And scaled to match the AP exam.
Let me look at yours again


I adjusted it. I needed to double your points for MCQ and FRQ but my AI doubled only one of them. You got a 72/76 which is 95% and scales to a 5 on the AP exam
[👍] Nathan

great! you may want to check the other [student]'s scores

Yea I went back and fixed everyone's. Thanks for checking

I checked with my friends afterward. All of them received at least a 6-point bump because of the AI's initial mistake. So, in the future, everyone (but especially teachers):

  1. Don't use AI for grading (it can't do math!!)
  2. Don't use AI when the results are important (30% of our grade is the midterm)


ChatGPT is a useful tool. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually use it every day. It's important to note, however, what ChatGPT is useful and not useful for. I hope this article gave you a better understanding of how to use ChatGPT effectively!