Make Picture Graphs

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SWBAT make a picture graph where each symbol represents one and interpret the information.

Big Idea

A picture is worth a thousand words! In this lesson, children use symbols or pictures to collect, organize, and record data.

Activating Strategy

10 minutes

I start this lesson by having students practice with the following game: picture graphs.

I do this activity as a whole group activity, I pull random sticks to call on students to come up and play the game.  This game gets them engaged and shows how to read and interpret the data from a picture graph.

The key component in MD.3.4 is to have students ask and answer questions about the data in the charts.  They should be able to ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less in one category than another.  This requires the students to analyze the data and be able to answer higher order thinking questions about the data represented in the graph.

Teaching Strategies

15 minutes

I read the following problem aloud to the class (also available as a PowerPoint Make Picture Graphs.pptx):

Sam has 6 baseballs. He has 4 bats. Does he have more baseballs or bats?

  • What do you need to find? I need to find if Sam has more baseballs or bats.
  • What information do you need to use? There are 6 baseballs and 4 bats.

I have children use counters to model the problem. If children have difficulty comparing the two groups of counters, I remind them about matching one to one. After drawing circles to record the counters, I have children draw lines to match the items in one group to the other group. You might also demonstrate with two groups of counters, and line up the two groups to compare them one to one.

  • Which group looks like it has more? (6 baseballs)
  • How do you know? (Possible answer: I drew lines from each baseball to a bat. All the bats were matched to a baseball and there were leftover baseballs.)

After circling the object with more, I have children restate their findings. They might say: 6 is greater than 4, so Sam has more baseballs than bats.

I guide children to complete the picture graph on the second slide, (also located on the top of the worksheet) with the following questions:

  • Can you tell without counting how many more white sheep there are than black sheep? Explain. (Possible answer: No. They are all mixed together.)
  • What does each circle for this graph show? (Each circle I draw stands for 1 sheep in the picture.)
  • What story does this graph tell? (There are more white sheep than black sheep.)
  • How do you know how many more white sheep than black sheep there are? (5 is greater than 3; 5 − 3 = 2)

Independent Practice

30 minutes

To begin the independent practice portion of this lesson, I have students look at the graph titled “Our Favorite Pet” (also located on the PPT, slide 3).  I ask them:

  • What question will you ask 10 friends to get information for the picture graph? (Do you like cats or dogs better as a pet?)
  • How many friends will you ask? (10)

I remind students that if they are asking 10 friends, they should only have 10 circles on their graph.  I do this, because they are so excited to be up and asking these questions, they forget to stop at 10!  I set a timer as well, to help in managing the amount of time they spend asking their question.  When time is up, and all students have completed the activity, we review the first 3 questions together. 

In this video, students are asking their classmates if they like dogs or cats as a pet.

If students have an understanding of the concept, I then have them follow the same procedure for the next picture graph, “what is your favorite activity”.  


5 minutes

To close out this lesson, I have the students write a question in their math journal about their picture graph “What is your favorite activity”.