Graphing is a great way for a young child to visually see math and understand the concepts of more or less and addition and subtraction in mathematics. Graphs can also be used in reading to help a child compare and contrast elements of a story. There are simple bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, and even Venn diagrams to help children understand new concepts in both reading and math.
Here are three ways to make graphing fun:
Use an old shower curtain or blanket as a large graph mat. Place it flat on the floor. Let your child organize objects to graph, such as stuffed animals, toy cars, or favorite books. If she decides to graph her stuffed animals she can organize by size, color, type of animal, etc. She might start at the bottom of the blanket and put all her yellow cats in a column, then her black cats in the next column, her orange cats next, and so on. Or she might choose to graph the cats by size. Ask “How many cats are yellow?” “Is that more or less than your black cats?” She is sorting and comparing results with this activity, as well as visually reading a graph.
Use same size, different-colored Legos or blocks to make a standing bar graph. Let your child ask family and friends their favorite kind of cookie, for example. Help him write responses. Let him assign a different colored Lego for different cookies—for example, red for chocolate chip, blue for peanut butter, etc. Stack up the Legos according to choices recorded. Help him make sure that each column is evenly spaced. Step back and help him analyze the cookie most favored and the least favorite one. Ask “How many more people liked chocolate chip than peanut butter cookies?” “What was the second most favorite kind?” “How do you know?”
Create a large Venn diagram by overlapping two Hula hoops. Or you can use string to create and overlap two large circles. Together read a favorite book, such as The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister and J. Alison James. After reading the book, talk about ways the Rainbow Fish is like a real fish. For example, both live in water. Help her write that on a small note or index card and place it in the space where the circles overlap to show characteristics that the story fish and a real fish might share. Try to find three examples of how they are alike. On the other spaces of the diagram, where there is no overlap, help her write characteristics of the Rainbow Fish that are not real, and place them to the left of the intersection. To the right, place a few characteristics of real fish that are not shared by the Rainbow Fish. When finished, help her compare and contrast how the fictitious fish and a real fish are alike and how they are different.
Graphs are an important learning tool because they demonstrate information visually. They help a child organize data to increase greater comprehension of reading and math facts.
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.