Tables store rich numerical data, but numerical reasoning over tables is still a challenge. In this paper, we find that the spreadsheet formula, a commonly used language to perform computations on numerical values in spreadsheets, is a valuable supervision for numerical reasoning in tables. Considering large amounts of spreadsheets available on the web, we propose FORTAP, the first exploration to leverage spreadsheet formulas for table pretraining. Two novel self-supervised pretraining objectives are derived from formulas, numerical reference prediction (NRP) and numerical calculation prediction (NCP). While our proposed objectives are generic for encoders, to better capture spreadsheet table layouts and structures, FORTAP is built upon TUTA, the first transformer-based method for spreadsheet table pretraining with tree attention. FORTAP outperforms state-of-the-art methods by large margins on three representative datasets of formula prediction, question answering, and cell type classification, showing the great potential of leveraging formulas for table pretraining.
Existing auto-regressive pre-trained language models (PLMs) like T5 and BART, have been well applied to table question answering by UNIFIEDSKG and TAPEX, respectively, and demonstrated state-of-the-art results on multiple benchmarks. However, auto-regressive PLMs are challenged by recent emerging numerical reasoning datasets, such as TAT-QA, due to the error-prone implicit calculation. In this paper, we present TaCube, to pre-compute aggregation/arithmetic results for the table in advance, so that they are handy and readily available for PLMs to answer numerical reasoning questions. TaCube systematically and comprehensively covers a collection of computational operations over table segments. By simply concatenating TaCube to the input sequence of PLMs, it shows significant experimental effectiveness. TaCube promotes the F1 score from 49.6% to 66.2% on TAT-QA and achieves new state-of-the-art results on WikiTQ (59.6% denotation accuracy). TaCube’s improvements on numerical reasoning cases are even more notable: on TAT-QA, TaCube promotes the exact match accuracy of BART-large by 39.6% on sum, 52.5% on average, 36.6% on substraction, and 22.2% on division. We believe that TaCube is a general and portable pre-computation solution that can be potentially integrated to various numerical reasoning frameworks