Math Background

Graphing Data: When Students Ask

  • Why are graphs useful?
    Lead children to see that recording data in graphs helps you to organize and visualize the data, making it easier to compare and making it easier to solve problems. Show the children a box with several cubes of different colors. Ask them for which color are there the most cubes. Then show them a bar graph or picture graph representing the number of cubes of each color. By looking at a bar graph or picture graph, they can quickly and easily see which color has the most or least cubes. Lead them to see that a graph allows you to find information fast.
  • How are bar graphs different from picture graphs?
    Picture graphs use actual pictures to show information. Bar graphs use symbols, colored blocks on a grid, to show the results. In order to read picture graphs, you must count the number of pictures; in bar graphs you simply need to read the number where the bar ends for each category.
  • When should I use a tally chart?
    We use a tally chart to collect data. Let's say you want to know the most popular color for class T-shirts. If you make a tally chart with different categories of color, and record data for each, it helps you to keep your data organized, making it easy to read and understand. Since the tallies are organized into groups of five or less, they are easy to count. Once you have gathered your information, you can use the tallies to make a graph. For each tally you need to draw one picture on a picture graph or color in one box on a bar graph.

    You can also use a tally chart to keep track of who is winning when playing a game. Tally charts can be used any time you want to keep a count of things that are happening.

  • How can I make a picture graph by myself, without pictures already there?
    Tell children that they can create their own picture graphs by drawing a picture to represent the information they want to count. They can use any type of drawing or shape, such as a circle or a square, as long as they know what it represents.
  • Can I make a bar graph and a picture graph with the same information?
    Yes. You can help your children see that a bar graph shows the same information as a picture graph. Instead of representing data with pictures, bar graphs represent data with bars and numbers. Lead children to see that for each picture on a picture graph, there is one colored box on the bar graph. They can check that they have the same information in each graph by counting the number of pictures and then comparing that number with the number where the bar ends on the bar graph.

Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 1