Make a Living Graph

Math Activity

Children learn to translate a concrete activity into a graphic representation, in this case, a bar graph.



  1. Tape a large, clear floor space in the classroom as a right angle to represent a graph. Explain that in any group of people, including families, some members of the group will like the same things. But say that it isn't likely that any two people will like all the same things.

  2. Tell children that they are going to test whether or not this is true. Explain that you are going to name some foods. As you name each food (Example: pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, ice cream) have children line up vertically or horizontally from the baseline in the line for their favorite.

  3. Have children in each line count off. Write those numbers on the chalkboard beside the name of the food. Ask the group to compare the numbers. Which is the most popular food? Which food comes closest to it? Which one has the shortest line? What does this mean?

  4. Explain that there is a simpler way of showing this information. On the newsprint graph, mark the equivalent number of spaces for each food. Tell children that this is what their lines would look like if someone were looking down on them. Explain that each line you draw stands for one of the lines they have formed. Demonstrate how you used the numbers along the side to know where to end each line.

  5. After children are seated, have them again compare the lines, pointing out how easy it is this way to see the relative length of each one.


Poll children on other topics. Examples include after-school activities, favorite colors, birthday months, number of family members, and number of siblings. Challenge children to suggest how you can record it on a graph without forming living lines. Follow their directions to make a graph.

After one such activity, supply students (working in teams) with duplicate graphs, and have them complete them on their own.

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