Understanding Graphs

Age Range: 7 - 11
By: Peter Daly

This work is best carried out in the assembly hall or other large space.

  • For the x and y axis use P.E. benches (make labels and ask children to put them on the appropriate bench).
  • Now tell the children to write numbers on A5 blank paper. These could be any amount but it's easier to start with 0 to 10 for both axes.
  • Place the 0 on the x axis and ask a child to place the 10 in the right place.
  • Next child places 5. AS a group work out where other numbers go and blu-tack them to the bench.
  • Now do the 'y 'axis in the same way.
  • Now introduce points on the x axis. If this presents a problem go back to number recognition.
  • Now focus on just one number on the x axis. Ask a child to stand next to this number (right next to the floor, rather than on the bench, unless you've got laminated numbers).
  • Next introduce one point on the y axis. Tell a child to stand on it (as above).
  • Tell the 2 chilldren they must now meet up but they can only walk in straight lines. With luck they should meet at the coordinates created by the 2 numbers. Reinforce by using different numbers. Place cones or domes (courtesy of the PE dept.) on the points where the two children meet so that the children can move and at the end you'll have a series of coordinates neatly marked.

I used this originally because my children (Yr6 special needs) couldn't grasp graphs from mere paper examples. We used the graph to show the size of shadow relative to distance from light source and they had to estimate the size of the shadow when they only knew the distance from the light source. We found this out by using a rope to show the path of the coordinates and extending it in the same direction. We did a brief 'follow the leader' to see where the path would lead us, after myself deliberately walking in the wrong direction so the children could correct me.

At the end the children drew what we had done and hey presto! They all produced a graph which they hadn't understood the day before. I found that lots of children have difficulty with coordinates. They understand the x but then want to walk back to the y axis to meet up. By watching the straight paths other children took the others eventually got the idea.


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This worked now 97% of my class understand it.