Thursday, April 17, 2008

Graphing with Students

Originally uploaded by rodaniel
Representing data is an important and difficult concept for students. Providing direct instruction and notes on different types of graphs, how to read graphs, and how to represent data in different graphs is a great start to getting students to understand graphing. It's the next step where students really learn graphing. Students need the opportunity to read graphs from multiple sources, create graphs, compare/analyze different types of graphs, and discuss issues in creating different graphs. All of these components allow students to make connections, solidify their understanding, and communicate in multiple ways with their peers and teachers about the concepts.
It was interesting to explore for a few minutes different free, easy to use resources that help teachers create opportunities these goals in dynamic and engaging ways.
Getting Students to read graphs:
There are lots of places to get relevant graphs of data. USA Today may be one of the best sites to get students access to
The newspaper online publishes multiple graphs on a daily basis. In the sports section a quick poll on the most impressive baseball milestone about to be passed was a quick, engaging example of a bar graph. In the money section, the daily track of the NASDAQ, DJIA, and USA today Internet 50 are all tracked using updated broken line graphs. With a five minute exploration, I found examples of a pie graph in realty, six different polls that represent data, and several tables of data. Students could easily explore the site, collect examples and analyze the chart and representation of the data. Another great site for quickly finding multiple representations of data was What a great site for data. The site is free and full of data sets and graphs already made for those data.

hours playing video games
Originally uploaded by rodaniel

The students could easily compare different types of graphs and create new graphs that represent the data in different ways. I am really excited about this site, but a warning about some of the data sets being inappropriate for student use.
To continue the creation of charts there are several other sites, applications that are fantastic for this. It's always easiest to start with the software that is usually accessible in the classroom, and I think Microsoft Excel or Google Docs Spreadsheet application are fantastic for this purpose, easy for students to learn and manipulate, and easily accessible. If you are more adventurous and want to explore applications on the web, I encourage you to check out this resource beyond Swivel; Create a Graph, Kid's Zone- Learning with NCES. Fully functioning chart building capabilities and very student friendly. Not as rigorous as some of the other sites, but very functional, especially for middle school.

I know data representation is a critical concept for students in today's setting and I hope others will explore the potential sites available to them for getting students engaged in graphing beyond the basics.

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