Helping Kids Create Graphs

In case you’ve missed my mini-series on data, you can catch up here…

Day 1: Collaborating to create data displays from scratch
Day 2: Collecting Data and making a plan to keep track of data

Data, Data, Data…
My biggest AHA! with data was at a math workshop last year.  For too many years, I handed kiddos a premade outline for a graph, asked them to color in the data, answer some questions about data and we called it success.
And that’s not actually how data translates in the real world.  In my world, I have to collect my own data to answer a question that my administrators have (or that I have on my own)…like reading levels.  So, I figure out the best way to collect and organize my data (reading levels), the best way to display my data so that it’s easy for my administrators and me to read.  And then I anticipate and answer any questions I think I might get about my data during my end of year evaluation…and NONE of that looks like a pre-made graphing skeleton.
Nothing wrong with pre-made graphs.  I use them a lot in my classroom.  They just shouldn’t be the only exposure we give kids.  Only using pre-made graphs mean less opportunities for kids to make mistakes…which means less opportunities to learn from their mistakes to get better.
My kiddos have been working all year with pre-made graphs and analyzing data.  I wanted to build their schema throughout the year on how data can be displayed.  I used lots of the pre-made graphs from my Graphing Palooza packets.
When we were ready to focus on the attributes of data, we dug a little deeper to build our graphs from the ground up!  
Here’s a look at the first part of our data unit (Which was, ya know, WAAAYYY back in March!)…
I started by posing the question: Which easter eggs do I have the most of in my bag?
Each group got butcher paper, a recording sheet, and a bag of 10 easter eggs…3 colors in each bag.
The groups discussed the best way to collect the data, record the data and keep track of which data/eggs had already been recorded.

Then, they worked on making a data display.  The only rules and guidance I gave them was to make sure they made the data display as easy to read as possible.  I told them I should be able to look at the data and immediately see which easter egg color had the most in their bag.

After they finished their displays, we shared our displays.  Yes, I purposefully gave each group a different color to help our discussion.  We did this on the same day because our schedule was wacko that day, but share time could easily be a day 2 lesson!

I posed the question: Look at each display.  Think about which displays are easy to read at a quick glance and which ones are difficult to read.  Which display is difficult to read?  Why?

It may seem negative that I started with what is difficult, but this question pushes kids to talk about the math and data immediately.  From experience, I’ve learned that talking about the easy to read ones first will get you answers like, “pretty colors,” or “they cut neatly,” or my all time favorite…”great handwriting!”  Talking about the difficult to read ones gets more meat more quickly!

As kids brought up issues with the hard to read displays, I recorded them on our data display anchor chart…

The yellow group helped us see that sorting categories correctly IS important (notice the pink and purple egg in the same category) AND that categories should be going in the same direction to easily compare data.

Our purple group helped us learn that categories need to be close together for easy comparisons!
Our red group helped us see how helpful labels can be helpful…

Our blue group helped us see how important the same starting point is important for comparing.

My orange group helped us see what happens when we use gaps or overlaps in our data recording!

And it was at this point one of my littles made the connection to how similar data attributes are to measurement attributes! #proudteachermoment {Read about linear measurement and see how similar these anchor charts really are!}

To close up our discussion time we analyzed each graph based on our anchor chart agreements on what an easy to read data display looks like.  I added check marks for each attribute their display showed as we graded them together as a class.  This was great practice and reinforcement of the data display attributes I wanted them to remember!

So, no, not all “instruction” is pretty.  But that doesn’t mean great learning isn’t occurring.  In fact, sometimes the biggest bang for my buck comes from the “ugliest” materials! 🙂

And don’t forget to grab my Spring Graphing Palooza Packet for all of the graphing fun I’ll be blogging about plus much, much more!  Or download the graphing bundle for year long experiences with data displays!  And check out my math talks on data displays which are great for test prep!

Next I’ll be blogging about how to accurately collect data through survey questions!  Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the updates!

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