Bar none. Analyzing and creating bar graphs

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The students will be able to display data in a bar graph and analyzing their results using real life information.

Big Idea

The students will love this real life learning. They will be able to get information from a graph as well as create their own graphs from the questions they have developed.


10 minutes

The DO NOW problem is a review of the distribution of the data set.  I picked this particular graph because it is a bar graph and it is relating the data to a cat’s tail length (high interest).  Students should look at this display and be able to determine the center, spread and shape.  Allow students to work independently at first then have them share their answers with a partner.  By allowing the partner share, the students will be implementing SMP3(constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reason of others).  

Extensions and Scaffolds: This lesson is designed to encompass all learners. The visual learners will benefit from seeing and manipulating the graphs. The auditory learners will benefit from the discussion with tablemate 

Analyzing Bar Graphs

60 minutes

The lesson begins by looking at bar graphs and analyzing the data it represents.  By analyzing, the students will be looking for most or least.  They can also look to find how many  (6.SP.5A).  Work these problems together to model how and what can be analyzed in a bar graph.

Next, the students will be doing a HUSUPU(hands up, stand up, pair up).  This is a partnered activity.  I like the students to partner up with different people so I try to find ways to randomly group them.  For example, I might group them by what color they have on or how many people/pets in their family.  This way the students will work with someone other than their friend. Once the partners have been determined, have the students decide who will be A and who will be B.  The A and B is a management tip to allow both partners equal talking time. I also like to mix the up the way I choose A and B during the discussion so that both partners pay attention while the question is being asked. 

The questions are:

  • How many cats measured 30 inches long from nose to tail?  How can you tell? (three, the bar over 30 has a height of 3, indicating 3 cats)
  • How many cats were measured in all?  How can you tell? (25, add the heights of all the bars to determine total frequency)
  • If you added the lengths of the three shortest cats, what would the total of those lengths be? How can you tell? (66 inches, 2 cats @ 25 and 1 @ 16)
  • What is the typical length of a cat from nose to tail?  Explain why you think your answer is correct? (typical answers 27 – 33 inches, 28 – 31 inches, 30 – 33 inches)

Have students return to their tables to answer the following question as a whole group.  

Group discussion:  If we measured another cat, how long do you think it would be?  Explain 31 or 33 (modes) or 31 inches (median) (SMP 1 and 2)

 Allow some think time. I tell the kids that thinking occurs in our heads, not out our mouths. 

 When adequate time to think about the question has happened (I usually say 20 seconds), move to the group discussion.

Now we will begin creating bar graphs.  Students will need to create one with you.  Our focus here is to make sure the students include the elements needed within the graph. (SMP 5 and 6)


X and y axis

Scale with equal intervals



Labels on the x and y axis.

In order to develop this understanding, I may ask the following questions.

Before anything goes on the paper, what will I need to create? (x and y axis)

How do we know what our graph is about? (title)

In order for this to be a bar graph, what do I have to have? (bars) and how do I know how high to make them? (frequency)

Where can I put the frequency? (x or y axis) and how will I know which axis has the frequency? (Label)

Can I use any numbers for the frequency (No, has to include least and greatest, must start at zero, and must be equal in intervals)

What will I put on the other axis (category)

How will I know what data is there? (Label)

Once this has been developed, allow the students time to create one on their own.  They will be allowed to use their own survey question which aligns to 6.SP.1.  Once they have their own question developed allow time for the survey to happen.  Have them use this data to create their own data display (6.SP.4)


10 minutes

The students will be analyzing a bar graph and answering three questions to sum up their learning for the day.   I've created an exit slip for them to use.  

 1. Find the mean, median, mode and range of the rainfall amounts.

 2. Which months had rainfall lower than 2 inches?

 3. Which month had the lowest amount of rain fall? 

This information can be used as whole class discussion or it can be turned in for evidence of student learning.