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Above Image: Rows of tomato seedlings underneath a fluorescent light

What is it?

The Tables to Graphs learning strategy provides students with a process of converting data previously organized into tables into a graphic format.

Why use it?

  • To support the development of graphing skills and concepts
  • To have students learn and practice how to transfer data in a table to a graph format
  • To have students understand the value of representing data graphically

How do I use it?

  • Before using this strategy, introduce its purpose to the students and provide students with examples of data recorded in tables (see the learning strategy Data to Tables for more about creating data tables).
  • Model the steps in constructing a simple bar graph or pictograph from a simple table.

Total Number of Seeds Germinated by Type

Seed Type

# Germinated

Type A Seeds

27

Type B Seeds

29

Figure 1: Simple data table

  • For example, using the data table in Figure 1, show the students how to create a bar graph of the data (Figure 2):
    • Title – the title from the data table should be the same title as that of the graph.
    • Horizontal axis label – this label is for the independent variable (in the case above, it is the type of seeds – A or B).
    • Vertical axis label – this label is for the dependent variable (in the case above, it is the number of seeds that have germinated).
    • Bars – represent the data in the table. In the graph above, the blue bar represents the data in the first column (Number of Type A seeds that germinated) and the red bar represents the data in the second column (Number of Type B seeds that germinated).
  • If you wish, you can go on to model the steps in constructing a more complex double or group-bar graph from a multi-columned table. For example, using the data table in Figure 4, show the students:
    • Title – the title from the data table should be the same title as that of the graph.
    • Legend – a legend (at right of the graph) identifies which data is represented by each bar (Type A seeds and Type B seeds).
    • Horizontal axis label – this label is usually for the independent variable (in the case above, it is the week number).
    • Vertical axis label – this label is usually for the dependent variable (in the case above, it is the number of seeds that have germinated).
    • Bars – represent the data in the table. In the graph above, blue bars represent the data in the first column (Number of Type A Seeds) and the red bars represent the data in the second column (Number of Type B Seeds).
  • Explicitly teach and practice how to determine the increments for the vertical axis (e.g., counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, etc.) given the range of data and the space available.
  • Discuss with students the circumstances under which they would use a bar graph (i.e., bar graphs are used to compare discrete types of data and one dependent variable measurement, such as the total number of seeds germinated). Bar graphs can also be used to show change over time, using discrete units of time (e.g. days, weeks, months, years) along the x-axis (see Figure 5).
  • Discuss with students reasons for creating graphs vs. representing data in tables alone (e.g., can more easily make comparisons between totals, etc.).

Tips for success

  • Expose students to a variety of examples of data presented in graphs. Discuss with students why they think that the data has been displayed in a particular format.
  • Have students examine the units and scaling of the axes on different graphs. Explicitly point out different methods of scaling data.
  • Review Processes of Science skills such as Identifying Variables so that students understand how to use their knowledge of variables to set up the axes on a graph.
  • When viewing various forms of displayed data, have students identify the independent and dependent variables being displayed.
  • Start beginners with graphing templates that have axes pre-labelled and are appropriately scaled for the anticipated range of data. For some plant-based examples, see the Tools and Templates section below.
  • Adapt graphing templates to provide greater opportunities for students to determine labelling requirements, units of measure and formats of graphs.

Variations

  • Have student share and explain graphs they have created to other students.
  • Have students convert data from the Tomatosphere™ Daily Germination Table (see the Data to Tables learning strategy) into a graph.
  • Have students put the same data into multiple graph formats (e.g., a pictograph, a bar graph, a line graph, a pie chart, etc.).
  • Have students graph the same data using different scaling on the y-axis and discuss how it affects the ease of viewing the data.
  • Provide opportunities to have student incorporate graphs in lab reports, inquiry summaries and presentations.
  • Have students practice using the graphing tools that come included in MS Excel.

Tools and Templates

Seed Investigation Bar Graph Template (Seed Germination by Seed Type) pdf doc

Tables to Graphs - Seed Investigation Line Graph - Template pdf doc

Tables to Graphs - Seed Investigation Line Graph - Exemplar pdf doc