Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Love Charts - Discovering Stories Hidden In Numbers

Source: 8th Grade Student, ASIDE
This week, we are teaching our students how to create charts. On a higher level, we are also helping them realize the benefits of graphs in discovering stories hidden within data and in demonstrating opinions through visualizations.

Guiding kids to decode illustrated data can result in a life-long skill, vital for their future budgets and 401ks. But freeing them to make graphs on their own can also unlock the perceived mysteries behind scientific displays. Whether digital or paper-based, student-designed charts can be great cross-curricular tie-ins between social studies and math, good for any grade level. Elementary learners can create pie graphs to show fractions. Middle school algebraists can practice their slopes and x/y intercepts. High school economists can plot variable cost curves and production possibility frontiers.

In teaching about primary source data and Excel models, we like to incorporate the "Taxonomy Of Graphs" as a visual guide to the different types of displays, from the literal to the abstract. We also like to let children explore the many online sites for quick graphic generation.

A terrific video to make kids smile and introduce the broad world of graphs comes from Sid The Science Kid on PBS Kids. The catchy musical clip, entitled "I Love Charts," has been shared by several sites thanks to its catchy jingle and educational value.

Source: 8th Grade Student, ASIDE
As an example of an in-class lesson, we did a quick one-day exercise with our eighth-graders to explore the regional changes in agriculture and farming after the Civil War. Using data from the PBS American Experience site, "Reconstruction: The Second Civil War," our students produced graphs of each state to reveal transformations in the number and value of both land and manufactured goods. Even while cataloging numbers and formatting line graphs, the students were thoroughly engaged, tweaking their layouts and choosing colors and designs. They also added hyperlinks to their images so classmates could click directly to the source.

Source: History Tech, 8th Grade Student, ASIDE
Another trouble-free lesson in chart creation comes from Glenn at History Tech. We followed the excellent suggestions in his blog post and invited our students to debate in small groups the relative weight of three Civil War causes. They discussed for several minutes and then made simple pie graphs on the free online tool Pie Color. Finally, each team displayed their graph on the SMARTboard, justifying their percentages to the rest of the class.

Some of our favorite sources for statistical data to use with students include:


  1. My Grade 10 students are also creating charts and graphs to compare how the Industrial Revolution affected different countries of the world. Students' individual approaches have led to unexpected inferences and highly engaging class conversations.

    Thanks for sharing a few new resources to check out.

    1. That sounds like a great exploration of industry's impact on different countries. The students' visuals are probably really impressive. If you share them anywhere, please let us know -- we'd love to check them out.

  2. Really a informative content about the creation of graphs and taxonomy of graphs which helps to all in learning a various forms of charts and graphs easily.


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