I explain to students that we are going to look at daily high and low temperatures for two different locations in the United States. We will collect data for one week and represent it with a line graph. Line graphs are effective at showing this kind of change over time. One of the locations we will collect data for is our home, which happens to be Tucson, Arizona. The other location will be somewhere far to the north, in a different climate region of the United States. I chose Buffalo, NY because of a recent snowstorm and the potential for interesting conversations. I also chose Buffalo, NY because it is very far north and east of where my students are and I wanted to make as drastic a comparison as possible while staying within the continental United States.
I want them to think about the patterns they notice, both within a locale (what do they notice about Tucson's daily high and low) and the patterns they notice between locations (that all temperatures are under 80 degrees, for example).
I take students to this website and explain the how to navigate it. My students work on very small laptop screens and it's important for me to remind them of all the places they need to scroll because their window shows so little. It seems like a small detail but it's critically important.
I guide them through the process of reading the high and low temperatures for each day of the past week in Tucson, and then we repeat the process for Buffalo, New York. We transfer the data to a table and then from there move it over to a graph. As this is their first line graph, I help them set it up. They are also used to working off larger paper so I provide some basic scaffolding on how to set up the graph page, and do a lot of walking around to make certain the x and y axis are getting placed and labeled correctly. They also require some support to find the line on which to place their data, as this can be a bit difficult to determine when the categories take up more than one line.
Students take away many different realizations from looking at the data as it's represented on the graph. This student recognizes that the high temperature in Buffalo, New York and Tucson, Arizona are within one degree of each other, and that this is interesting given the fact that there was a recent snowfall of 7+ feet in Buffalo!
This student recognizes that there is a greater range between Tucson's daily high and low temperatures than there is between Buffalo's daily high and low temperatures.
This student is developing his ability to describe the range of temperature as variable (Buffalo in the last week) and stable (Tucson in the last week). This is yet another important component of later being able to differentiate between different climates!
This student is able to make a statement looking at all the data from Tucson and Buffalo and comparing them: