Sure, graphing math facts may not be as fun as karaoke or skating. But, as homework goes, it's a whole lot more interesting than organizing facts in a chart or numbers on a list. Even though "plotting," or marking a data point on the x-axis and y-axis of a graph can be both challenging and tedious, watching numbers take shape as meaningful data can be as rewarding and interesting as it is important for the statistical analysis of middle school and high school math.
By developing graphing skills and interpreting data, students are exercising key analytical skills. Here's a fun at-home activity that will help your child strengthen these skills using high and low temperature data, and become a master temperature tracker!
What You Do:
- Have your child record the daily temperature highs and lows for one week. Useful sources for this data are on-line weather websites or a daily newspaper. Have him make a chart to display his data. Use Days of the Week, Highs, and Lows for headings. Let him do the work, but remind him to check and record his findings each day.
- Discuss with your child how to set up a line graph showing his data. Suggest placing the days of the week under the horizontal line or "x-axis". To determine how to set up the numbers on the vertical line or "y-axis", ask your child questions such as "What is the highest temperature you recorded?" and "What is the lowest recorded temperature?". This will help him determine which numbers he wants to show. If the variations in temperature are small, he may want to count by ones or twos. If the variations are large, he may choose to count by fives, or tens.
- Choose one color to show the low temperatures and another color to show the high temperatures. Work together with your child to display the data on the graph. Place dots, or "data points," above each day of the week showing the highs and the lows. Use a ruler to connect the dots for each. When you are finished, you will have two different colored lines showing the recorded temperatures.
- Discuss the data. Ask your child if the line graph shows an increase or decrease of temperature over time. Discuss whether the daily temperature variations remain the same or whether they vary widely. Ask him if it's easier to interpret data shown on his line graph or on his chart.
Hopefully, with practice, using a line graph will become a simple tool to bring data alive, and help your child make the connection between mathematics and the real world!
Sally is an experienced educator, with over 14 years of teaching experience. Over the last ten years she has created educational materials, including ancillary, textbook, and test items, for Grades K-8 for major educational publishers.