Classroom Solutions > Victoria, Grades 3-5 > Hands-on Math: Transitioning to Graphing

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Hands-on Math: Transitioning to Graphing

MathpostercjIn the picture- Two boys developing a data poster about students' heights together.

I have posted about learning to embrace a hands-on approach in math. At first, it was very challenging for me, but I am becoming more comfortable about using various methods to make math "real" in our classroom. 

Currently, we are are in the middle of a three-week graphing unit. We are discussing and learning more about these math graphing words: bar graph, circle/pie graph, double bar graph, stem-and-leaf plot, line plot, line graph, pictograph, mode, median, mean, range, outlier, data, observations, and variables. 

These are the activities we have completed during the unit so far:


The students started out by developing data questions of their own, with 4-5 options for each of the classmates to vote on. They then had to design a poster with their question at the top along with a tally chart, pie/circle graph, bar graph, and a written explanation of what they noticed about the data. Megan's question was: What is your favorite drink? A question asked by another student was: What is your favorite sport? It was really interesting seeing the types of questions the students asked. We plan on completing this activity a few more times with new data questions and options every time.


On Monday, each student received a box of raisins. From there, they counted the raisins from their boxes, and the class made a line plot displaying the data. We discussed that an outlier is the "lonely" number that is not near the main group of data. There were a few boxes that either had less or more raisins than the rest of the class.


Next we began measuring one another with meter sticks. We talked about keeping data consistent. Do we measure from the soles of the shoes or the toes of the shoes? We also discussed how the numbers on the meter sticks had to be in descending order from top to bottom to get an accurate measurement of each student.


Then we made posters displaying yesterday's data. We discussed mode, median, mean, and range. The range of our data was 16 inches, from 51 to 67 inches. We also discussed what should be included on each poster, which turned out to be a line plot, bar graph, tally chart with categories, and a written explanation of the data (observations and variables). The poster below included wonderful observations and a few interesting variables.


Questions for you:

  • What is an interesting graphing activity you have done with your class?
  • Do you focus on data-type activities a little every week or teach about data for a specific amount of time?
  • Do you have a traditional or hands-on math curriculum?
  • What type of curriculum do you prefer, and why?


  • #1 Amanda McVay

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    Oh, also, I forgot to mention that we graph in a variety of different ways. We make pictographs, line graphs, bar graphs, and occasionally pie graphs.

    Great! Perhaps we'll inspire one another in many ways this year. :) - Victoria

  • #2 Amanda McVay

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    I love how practical and real your graphing lessons are! We also use Everyday Math, but your curriculum looks really great! Does it really emphasize investigations daily, or is that something that you have chosen to enhance?

    I have my students keep data folders. They graph their progress on spelling tests, math tests, parallel math questions, Scholastic Reading Inventory scores, monthly extended responses for test prep, and various other assessments. They use the data to set goals and determine how to reach their goals. Over time, they adjust their approach to studying or practicing a particular skill based on their results. I have found this to be extremely practical and helpful. Sure, it takes a little bit of extra time, but it is so meaningful and it really helps the students to take ownership of their own learning.

    It also allows them to become experts and monitor their progress. In the spring, the students meet with their parents for student-led conferences. They are armed with work samples, their data folders, and a checklist to guide their discussion. I definitely would recommend keeping data notebooks to anyone interested in having student-led conferences.

    Hi, Amanda! YOUR graphing ideas sound great. I may try to have students monitor their data in NCS Lab (which is our computer program with reading and math questions daily). The math series emphasizes the investigations, but I come up with some of my own as well that compliment the program. The kids really enjoyed measuring their heights in comparison to the kindergarten students.

    By the way, I am going to have student-led conferences at the end of the year!! Or try to, anyway. - Victoria

  • #3 Eve Ottavino

    Saturday, October 03, 2009 at 08:43 PM

    What is your math program? The raisin activity sounds like one we do from the Everyday Math program. We just finished our unit but I plan on having on ongoing center for gathering and displaying data.

    We have Scott Foresman Investigations, which is plenty similar to Everyday Math. I love the fact you are going to have a center- what are you going to provide for it? - Victoria

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