Analyzing Graphs and Charts (MEAP preparation)

*Unit Plan Fall 2012 (September 24-28)

Unit: Targeted Learning Connections
Topic: Analyzing Graphs
Type of Class
• Grade level(s): 8
• Type of school: Urban

Abstract
An application activity sequence focused on engaging students in analyzing data from tables and graphs. The objective will be met as students partake in group discussions analyzing graphs that display data pertaining to Detroit, Carver STEM Academy and their class. The discussions will focus on the purpose of graphs, components of graphs, types of graphs and interpreting the data displayed by graphs. Students will then apply the concepts gained from observing and analyzing example graphs to create their own in teams with data from a topic they choose. The teams will then present and explain their graphs to the class.

Big Ideas
Students are exposed to visual displays of information on a daily basis, so they should be able to interpret and understand this information and also be aware of possible bias” (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 283 and Science link). Scientists in different fields collect data in many different forms, from the magnitude and location of earthquakes to the length of finch beaks to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and so on. Although data are initially compiled in tables or databases, they are inevitably displayed in a graphic form to help scientists visualize and interpret the variation within the data (vision learning).

“Graphs are often an excellent way to display your results…For any type of graph, generally, place independent variable on the x-axis of the graph and the dependent variable on the y-axis. Label the axes of the graph and don’t forget to include the units of measurement (grams, centimeters, liters, etc.). If there is more than one set of data, show each series in a different color or symbol and include a legend with clear labels” (science buddies). “A line graph, a very common type of graph often used to show change in one or more variables as it relates to a second variable such as time. Bar graphs, or histograms, are used mainly for comparison. A pie graph shows parts of a whole” (Vision Learning).

The following procedure can be used when reading any kind of graph. “First, describe the graph: What does the title say? What is on the x-axis? What is on the y-axis? What are the units? Second, describe the data: What is the numerical range of the data? What kinds of patterns can you see in the data? Third, interpret the data: How do the patterns you see in the graph relate to other things you know?” (Vision Learning).

“Regardless of the exact type of graph, the creation of clear, understandable visualizations of data is of fundamental importance in all branches of science. Likewise, reading and interpreting graphs is a key skill at all levels, from the introductory student to the research scientist. Graphs are a key component of scientific research papers where new data is routinely presented. Presenting the data from which conclusions are drawn allows other scientists the opportunity to analyze the data for themselves, a process whose purpose is to keep scientific experiments and analysis as objective as possible. Although tables are necessary to record the data, graphs allow readers to visualize complex data sets in a simple, concise manner” (Vision Learning).

Student Practices or Crosscutting Concepts
1. Naming key practices
The high leverage practice of analyzing and interpreting data is the focus of this application activity cycle. Students will be confronted with the problem of having to interpret graphs both in school and in the real world because graphs are used to display data in numerous sources from scholarly science reports to everyday occurrences. The high leverage practice of analyzing and interpreting data will be modeled using graphs displaying information with which the students are familiar. The data being interpreted is familiar to the students because it is depicting weather conditions in Detroit throughout the year, demographics of Carver STEM Academy (number of students in each grade and percentage of male and female students) and characteristics of their classmates (height, favorite animal, favorite color, students who play sports, students who like peanut butter and number of siblings). The high leverage practice of asking questions will be modeled and then students will be coached to ask questions during group discussions. As students analyze graphs displaying characteristics of their city, school and classmates they will be encouraged to ask questions about what the graph is indicating and if the graph is created properly and without bias. In addition, the students will be asked to find patterns in the data and determine if the information being displayed in the graph is supported by their prior knowledge and experiences. Students will be encouraged to continue to ask similar questions of graphs they encounter in the future in order to determine their reliability.

As students are being coached in analyzing graphs, they will engage in the high leverage practice of constructing explanations by using the data depicted by the graphs. The class will follow the following procedure for every graph the groups analyzes: First, describe the graph: What does the title say? What is on the x-axis? What is on the y-axis? What are the units? Second, describe the data: What is the numerical range of the data? What kinds of patterns can you see in the data? Third, interpret the data: How do the patterns you see in the graph relate to other things you know? Students will need to properly analyze the graphs by asking themselves the questions modeled in the group discussion and following the procedure for analyzing graphs in order to construct strong explanations of the patterns in the data the graphs are depicting.

Students will then be given autonomy in choosing which set of data they’d like to work with in creating a graph of their own. The sets of data were collected by giving the student surveys asking questions about candy, pets, eye color, favorite subject, and favorite season. Students will continue using the high leverage practice of interpreting data in addition to using the high leverage practice of using mathematics and computational thinking when creating graphs. Once graphs are complete, students will use the high leverage practices of analyzing data, constructing explanations, and asking questions as students compare and contrast their graph with the graphs created by other students. When comparing and contrasting their graphs, students will need to analyze the graph and interpret the data following the procedures and thought processes that were modeled and coached. Students will use their data to construct explanations for their graph designs and ask questions to determine whether the data is accurately depicted. The process of creating, comparing and contrasting graphs also engages students in the high leverage practice of evaluating and communicating information. Working with data the students are interested in and familiar with increases their confidence when using the high leverage practices of evaluating and communicating information and analyzing and interpreting data. A goal of this activity sequence is to provide students with the means and motivation to accurately create, evaluate and analyze all graphs, in and out of the classroom.

2. Using practices or crosscutting concepts to make connections
The previous activity sequence focused on making measurements and recording data using the metric system. This activity sequence focuses on engaging students in interpreting data by analyzing and creating graphs. Connections will be made between collecting data and displaying it pictorially as students work with the data they collected/provided on a questionnaire which has been displayed on graphs. Students will build on and continue practicing measurement concepts as they interpret the data displayed on graphs.

The importance of using the high leverage practice of analyzing and interpreting data will become apparent as samples of biased or confusing graphs are discussed. Students will have to be aware of and familiar with the units used in graphs in order to efficiently analyze the graph and determine if it is reliable. Students will be motivated to be aware of the big ideas, principles and practices they must follow when analyzing and creating graphs in order to interpret data about their city, school and classmates, in the immediate, and topics ranging from science to sports to weather in the future.
C. Objectives for Student Learning

Objective Type
Michigan Objective(s)
1. S.IA.07.11 Analyze information from data tables and graphs to answer scientific questions. (Using SP)

2. S.IP.07.15 Construct charts and graphs from data and observations (Using SP)

Specific Lesson Objective(s)
1. Prepare students for the MEAP

Sources
http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=109
http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/whats-in-a-graph/
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fairprojects/project_data_analysis#overview

 

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