Chris Joyce, Alex Neill, Verena Watkid, Jonathan Fisher (2008)Why carry out we desire students to recognize around tables and graphs?What are the problem locations for students?Constructing tablesConstructing graphsInterpreting tables and graphsImplications for teaching

What are tables and graphs?Tables and also graphs are visual representations. They are offered to organise indevelopment to present trends and also relationships. A graph mirrors this information by representing it as a shape. Researchers and researchers regularly usage tables and graphs to report findings from their research study. In newsdocuments, magazine write-ups, and on television they are often used to support an argument or suggest of view.

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Why carry out we desire students to recognize around tables and graphs?Tables and graphs can be advantageous devices for helping civilization make decisions. However before, they just carry out component of a story. Inferences often need to be made from the information displayed. As well as being able to identify clearly what the graph or table is informing us, it is essential to identify what parts of the story are missing. This have the right to assist the reader decide what various other information they require, or whether the argument need to be rejected bereason the supporting proof is suspect. Students must recognize just how to critique the data and the way it is presented. A table or graph have the right to misreexisting information by

It is straightforward, if students are not skilful at reading graphs and tables, to interpret them wrongly. They deserve to make wrong decisions because they are basing them on false inferences. When creating graphs and tables, it is likewise possible to misrepresent the information. Research suggests that students often regard tables and graphs as an finish in themselves. Few refer to them as a source of evidence, or as a way of trying out trends and relationships in data or indevelopment.

The curriculumTables and also graphs are relevant to virtually all areas of the curriculum. The conventions of tables and also graphs are consistent across all curricula. It is the conmessage in which they are used that identifies them as scientific research, social scientific researches, geography, etc. The table below provides examples of English, mathematics, and science ARB sources that incorporate tables or graphs.

Examples from the Assessment Resource Banks

EnglishConstruct a graph to show trends in a character"s emovements regarded a details event: Cuthbert’s Babies.
MathematicsComplete a table to present the amount of staff members" Christmas bonus, then usage this to calculate just how a lot money is left over:$200 bonus.MathematicsComplete and also usage a table to graph the cost per hour of repairing a car: Car maintenance.
ScienceComplete a table around properties of paper towels:The finest mopper top.ScienceInterpret a graph of a car"s journey and add to the graph to represent a better description of the journey:A car journey.

Key competenciesInvestigating tables and graphs possibly strengthens several essential competencies.

Using language, icons, and texts: Knowing about graphs and also tables strengthens students" capability to accessibility and also critique others" ideas. It likewise helps them to efficiently connect their own. The statement that students" "confidently usage ICT" (p. 12) reinforces the role assistive modern technology has actually for tables and also graphs. This have to encompass organising, analysing, and also making feeling of information and also being able to "access and administer indevelopment and to communicate via others" (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 12).Participating and also contributing: Interpreting and critiquing sometimes conflicting data is a vital ability for making decisions. Tables and also graphs are a advantageous tool for organising available data for decision making. They are additionally a advantageous means of giving evidence to convince others towards a particular dispute.Thinking: Analysing and synthesising information from various sources is a vital part of arising disagreements and also decision making.

What are the problem areas for students?The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) determined 2 pertinent sets of skills

extracting and interpreting informationcreating or completing graphs and tables.

NEMP (2003) reported that many type of New Zealand also students

did not provide their graphs and also tables an correct titledid not label the axes appropriatelyhad actually difficulty with functioning with even more than one variable at a time, i.e. comparing, calculating, and functioning via multiple sources.

Trials of ARB resources have established better areas of challenge for students.

LanguageSome technological vocabulary deserve to cause problems for some students.

A table is occasionally called a chart. This is a correct usage, yet can confuse students.

Some students are only familiar via the day-to-day definition of table. These students draw a kitchen table as soon as asked to "attract a table". Go to Language barriers.

In math and science the term range is often offered to describe a single number whereas in daily cases we tend to usage the word "range" to describe the set of numbers between a lower and also upper limit. For example in the question "What is the range of temperature fluctuations shown in this place?" the correct answer would certainly be 14 °C if range is interpreted in a mathematical sense and also 35°C to 49°C if array is understood in an eexceptionally day context. Mathematics additionally refers to the y-axis of a graph as the range (the x-axis is referred to as the domain).

TablesIn our ARB trials we have found that many students deserve to complete simple table-analysis work. Students have had actually difficulty with:

creating more facility tables, e.g. two-method tablestransforming data from textsanswering inquiries that involve calculations.
Other areas that are challenging for students are:comparing (for instance, identifying differences)answering concerns about the least (as opposed to the most)considering a number of features to make a decisionmaking use of indevelopment in a table if they haven"t also some contextual knowledgeutilizing the indevelopment in the table to justify decisions.

However, many type of students also execute not complete these sorts of work well in contexts other than tables.Organising the information into a table is a useful strategy for assisting students to develop these skills.

GraphsIn our ARB trials we have uncovered students might have actually challenge with

choosing an appropriate graph to communicate their findingsoffering a title for the graphnaming the axesanalysis the range of the axes, and relating them to the shape of or trends in the graphdeciding on the proper scale to usage when building graphsnoting sub-devices on the axes at consistent intervals (although occasionally marking at irconsistent intervals may be acceptable)including the systems of meacertain (plus any kind of multipliers) on each axis of a graphanswering inquiries that involve calculationsplotting indevelopment from an article/ created textidentifying fads, explaining or synthesising relationships between 2 graphs, or two or even more variablesreading the as a whole shape or trend of a graphinterpreting time/distance graphs. They review or construct them as a photo of what taken place, for exampleinterpreting when the line goes up as going uphillgoing earlier to the founding suggest to reach "home".

At Year 4 a lot of students can review the information on a basic graph. Pie graphs may be more hard than bar or line graphs. At Year 8 many kind of students deserve to extrapolate indevelopment from a straightforward line graph. At Year 10 the majority of students are reasonably effective at converting a straight-forward table to a graph.

When making decisions around students" interpretation of graphs, it is necessary to also think about their familiarity via the conmessage.Lack of expertise around the context might influence their capability to analyze the graph.

Variables – what are they?In graphs and also tables the components that are being compared or measured are referred to as variables. For instance, if the question is: How does shadow length vary throughout a day? The length of the shadow is one variable, and also the moment of day is the other. It is often beneficial to describe variables as either dependent or independent. The dependent variables are what deserve to be checked out to be changing in relation to the specific levels of the independent variables. In the above example

the independent variable is the moment of daythe length of the shadow is the dependent variable as it relies upon the moment of day.

In many instances, however, tright here is no apparent link of this kind between the variables. In other situations we are interested in how the many type of variables connect with each various other. Tbelow are 4 major forms of variables:

categoric variable – described by a word label, not a number, e.g., different brands of paper towelordered variable – categoric variables that have the right to be put in order, e.g., cool, warmth, hotdiscrete variable – explained by whole numbers just, e.g., 1, 2, 3 teaspoonsconsistent variable – defined by any kind of number or component number, e.g., 35.5°.

An examination have the right to have actually any type of combicountry of variables. This is characterized by the question. Variables which are topic to some type of random, statistical errors are well-known as random variables. Most variables in actual investigations are of this type (and also are typically simply described as variables).

Constructing tablesTables are

an organiser for an investigationa means of presenting data in a reportan organiser to help understanding and also reasoning.


For investigations through no numerical data it is normally better to usage a table to current the data. A table via countless variables can be broken dvery own into smaller sized tables that look at each variable separately. The interaction between the miscellaneous variables have the right to then be explored.


The independent variables (if they have actually been identified) go in the left hand columns, the dependent variables on the best.
The independentvariable →Type of paper towelAmount of waterabsorbed(ml)← The dependentvariable
Any column heading need to have all the indevelopment essential to specify the table"s interpretation. A categoric variable need to include a summary of the course. A discrete or constant variable must determine systems and any kind of multipliers (e.g., thousands of human being, numerous dollars, kilometres).A title summarises what the table is mirroring.When investigating, the order of the entries is arbitrary. When reporting results, they need to be sorted right into an order.Sometimes it is much better to put information right into bands, e.g.,
A table helps organise indevelopment so it is simpler to watch trends and also relationships.If a variable is consistent the table reveals a lot even more indevelopment. It might show the variety, interval, and variety of readings.Tables via multiple variables have the right to provide many information. They deserve to be review by choosing and also regulating factors to search for fads in the data.


It have the right to be challenging to view numerical relationships and also fads. A graph might make these clearer.When clumping information into bands, there is no indication of just how many are in each category.

Constructing graphsPurposesGraphs are

a way of experimenting the relationships in dataa way of displaying and reporting data, making it simpler to report trends and also relationships, shapes of distributions, and fads.

StructureAny graph provided to report findings need to show

the significant attributes and also findings of the examination in a fair and also quickly check out waythe underlying structure of an investigation in regards to the relationships in between and also within the variablesthe devices of measurementthe number of readings (though periodically these will certainly be in the accompanying text)the variety and interval of readings, wright here proper.

It is excellent exercise (yet only a convention) to put the dependent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and also the independent on the vertical (y) axis.

Bar graphsBar graphs have to be supplied for categoric, ordered, and also discrete variables. If the number of units in a discrete variable is huge it might be displayed as a continuous variable.



Pie graphsPie graphs (periodically called pie or circle charts) are offered to display the parts that consist of a totality. They can be helpful for comparing the dimension of loved one parts. Since it is tough to compare various circle graphs, and regularly difficult to compare the angles of various sectors of the pie, it is sometimes much better to choose various other sorts of graphs.


HistogramsUse histograms once y-axis provides the frequency of, or occurrences for continuous data that has actually been sorted into teams, for example, 20-24 metres. All bars are typically of equal width. They deserve to be turned right into line graphs by connecting the middle of the height area of each vertical bar. Histograms are not joined up bar graphs and also need to not be provided for categoric data (unless the number of systems in each group is large).

What a graph have the right to tell youOn a graph you get an all at once form of a variable or the relationships between variables. A line graph represents a numerical or mathematical connection and so has actually more indevelopment "buried" in it than other graphs. Line graphs deserve to periodically be supplied to make predictions for values that were not measured, by interpolating or extrapolating the trfinish, or by looking at the form.


Graphs deserve to tell you a lot around the architecture of an examination, yet they don"t tell you every little thing. For instance, they do not commonly tell you which variables were controlled, the sample size, or the technique of measurement. So tright here are numerous questions to ask to uncover out around validity and also relicapacity, and likewise about the actual conmessage of the investigation.The scales on the axes deserve to be stretched or shrunk to emphasise one side of a relationship or to make a allude that might not be justified by the data.A graph means a partnership yet not necessarily a cause. For instance, a graph may display that residences price less in March than they did in February, yet it does not present why this taken place. We might infer it is because the interemainder prices have actually gone up.

Interpreting tables and also graphsGott and also Duggan figured out layers of intricacy to reading, interpreting, and also analysing data presented in tables and also graphs. These include

reading off particular data from points on the table or graph (easy)picking sections of pertinent data from complicated data sets (even more complex)identifying and interpreting patterns within various forms of information (the majority of complex).

A study of 12 and also 14 year olds discovered that individual students noticed the patterns of line graphs in different methods. Their responses were grouped right into five categories.

How students construed line graphs:

CategoryDescriptionExample of student response
No pattern--
Numerical patternsIdentified numerical fads created from one or both axes. These were irpertinent to the graphs" "messages". Some students were distracted from generalising around the relationships by apparent numerical fads.The numbers if put in order go even, odd, odd, even and so on.
Graphical patternsDescribed the form or direction of the line. These students did not relate this shape to what the axes stood for.It goes down and then earlier up.
Unassociated fads in variableDescribed a general trfinish in the sepaprice variables however did not relate these to one an additional, or explained a trend in one variable however not the other.The length of the shadow decreased.
Generalised relationships between variablesWere able to generalise a relationship between dependant and independent variables. Prior suffer of the context appeared to be a aspect in being able to make generalisations.The greater the sphere was dropped from the better it bounced back.

Key inquiries to askThe inquiries below

assist students to critique their own and others" tables and graphsprovide helpful teaching points for teachers as they arrangement for next learning

Teachers need to think about the age of their students and also reword at an proper level.


Is the information presented as necessary for the design of the investigation?What does the table or graph not tell us about the architecture of the investigation?What does the indevelopment in the table or graph tell us? (Are there any kind of trends in the data?)What does the data presented not tell us that can invalidate our interpretation?Do the trends imply an association, a difference, or a readjust between the variables?Can we use the pattern in the data to predict and also generalise? (This contains being aware of the constraints of the presentation of the data.)Are tright here alternative interpretations for the pattern of the data? Might other factors be causing the pattern? Have the restrictions of the data been clearly identified?

Implications for teachingConstruction

Teach not just the agreed conventions, yet likewise the reasons for these.Students are more likely to encompass titles and also name the axes if they understand also their objective.Support students to think around the a lot of proper form of table or graph to current their data.Assist students to choose an appropriate range for their information.Younger students may advantage from physically representing information with props, consisting of themselves.Interactive whiteboards, Excel spreadsheets, graphic calculators and also various other forms of ICT have actually been offered effectively by some teachers for developing skills in creating graphs. Some computer programmes deserve to be provided to generate graphs. Discussion is an essential component of using these props and devices.Develop the vocabulary to define components of tables and graphs.


Assist students to investigate the story the table or graph tells.Give students practice in investigating the relationships presented in tables and graphs, and making inferences from them.Teach students to break a graph into sections, review separately, and also then reconstruct to tell the story.Encourage students to decide what other information they need to recognize before they deserve to make decisions based on the information stood for.Develop vocabulary that explains and also compares.

Possible progressions in teaching about graphsProgressions in constructing and also interpreting graphs should be provided via caution. Students" skill levels are likely to be influenced by

their familiarity through the context they are working inthe intricacy of the context they are working inthe intricacy of the datathe intricacy of the building of the graph.

The adhering to chart does, though, provide some advantageous guidelines.

1.With support:Construct straightforward graphsProvide a title and name the axesRead information from noted pointsDescribe a pattern presented on the graph
2.Independently:Construct straightforward bar graphsConstruct basic line graphs when provided the axes.Read data from any type of pointsDescribe a connection stood for in the graphRecognise and also give a simple explanation for an inconsistency in the data displayed on the graph
3.With support, select correct graph and scalePlot 2 (or more) sets of information on the same axis.Describe relationships between variables, consisting of dependent and also independent if relevantIdentify and also explain anomalous resultsInterpret information from a graphInfer unwell-known values by using the shape of the graph to predict a continuing patternWith support, use the trends on a graph as proof.
4.Select correct graph and also scaleKnow once and also just how to attract a line of finest fit.Independently construct a selection of more complicated graphsMake inferences and also predictions from graphs, and justifyReach conclusions consistent via graphical proof.Use trends and relationships stood for on graphs to make judgementsCritique others" interpretations of graphs by evaluating the indevelopment displayed in a graph and how it is represented.

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Austin, R., Holding, B., Bell, J. and Daniels, S. (n.d.). Assessment Matters: No.7. Patterns and Relationships in School Science. London: SEAC.Flockton, L., Crooks, T, and also Gilmore, A. (2004). Graphs, Tables and also Maps: Assessment Results 2003. Dunedin: Educational Research Unit, College of Otago.Gott, R. and Duggan, S. (2003). Understanding and Using Scientific Evidence: How to Critically Evaluate Data. London: SAGE Publications.Minisattempt of Education (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.