Line Plots

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SWBAT collect data, make a line plot, and answer questions about the data.

Big Idea

Students can interpret data from a line plot.

Whole Class Discussion

15 minutes

Rationale:  Before the students learn to use line plots for fractions, I want to give my students exposure to using line plots with an easier skill.  This lesson allows the students to plot using whole numbers.  This is very important for the students to understand before plotting fractions.


I let the students know that we have been working with measurement and data for the past few weeks.  We learned about the customary and metric units of measurement.  Today, we will discuss line plots.  This aligns with 4.MD.B4 because students make a line plot to display a data set of measurements.  I let the students know that sometimes we need to collect data when we are doing research.  Using the data that we collect, we can make a graph to get a visual picture of what the data is telling us.  I share a few ways to collect data with the students.  We can collect data on: how grades are getting better or worse in a subject or the number of students who have attended our school in the past few years.   

The Line Plots power point is displayed on the Smart board.  I like to begin by discussing any relevant vocabulary.  It is very important to expose the students to the vocabulary before we begin to discuss the skill.  I want my students to be familiar with the terms.


Line plot – shows data along a number line (I let the students know that we are collecting data dealing with numbers for a line plot.)

Outlier – any number that is very different from the other numbers (To model this, I draw a number line on the board to give the students an example.) 

Interval – a number which is the difference between two consecutive numbers on the scale of a graph (I give them an example of counting by 1's or 5's.  I let the students know that the intervals will depend on the data.  If you have large numbers, then your intervals may need to be in 10's, 20's or 50's.)


Example Problem:

How many books have you read this school year? (I survey the students to find the total number of books the students have read during this school year.  I place the tally marks in the chart to model how to collect data. I let the students know that the tally mark represents each student.) 

Number of Books

Number of Students

















 I ask, How can we determine how many students took the survey?  Student response:  count the tally marks.

We can interpret the data in a line plot. 

What was the highest number of books read?

What is the lowest number of books read?

What is the difference between the highest and lowest number of books read?

Skill Building/Exploration

20 minutes

For this activity, I let the students work independently to collect data for a line plot.  

I give each student a Line Plots Activity Sheet.  The students must select the question that they want to use to survey their classmates.  The students are required to use a table to collect the data.  The data is then used to create a line plot.  The students must write a question or questions that can be answered from their data (Video for Line Plots).

As they work, I monitor and assess their progression of understanding through questioning. 

1.  How many students did you survey?

2.  Does your line plot match your data in the table?

3.  What questions can you answer from this data?

As I walk around the classroom, I am questioning the students and looking for common misconceptions among the students.  Any misconceptions are addressed at this point, as well as whole class at the end of the activity.

My Findings:

The students really enjoyed being able to move about and survey their classmates.  With so much movement around the room, it was difficult for the students to get to each student.  I alloted a certain amount of time for the students to move around to survey their classmates.  At the end of the time, the students had to return to their seats.  The easy part for the students was putting the information in the table.  (By having a table and number line already printed on the activity sheet made it easier for the students and did not waste a lot of time by having the students draw these out.)  The difficult part for some students was using the right intervals on the number line.  I reiterated to these students that the numbers on the number line was dependent on the data that was collected.  I gave them examples, such as, if your data goes from 5 to 20, then you can count by 2's or 5's.  


15 minutes

To close the lesson, I bring the students back together as a whole class.  I feel that it is very important to let the students share their answers as a whole class.  This gives those students who still do not understand another opportunity to learn it.  

I feel that by closing each of my lessons by having students share their work is very important to the success of the lesson.  Students need to see good work samples (Student Work - Line Plots and Line Plot), as well as work that may have incorrect information.  More than one student may have had the same misconception. In this particular lesson, as a whole class, we discussed how to determine the intervals for the number line.  As we continue to work with line plots, the students must label all components on the line plot, including the title.