Graphs and tables

We use graphs to understand information – in newspapers, on bills or on television. Your child can experiment with graphs simply by playing games and tallying the results.

At a glance

  • Information in graphs and tables is often found in newspapers and pamphlets.
  • Graphs can make it easy to understand information.
  • Kids learn to read and interpret graphs and tables during maths lessons and in other subjects.
  • Show your child household bills which include graphs, such as a water or electricity account.
  • With your child, read and discuss information shown on sporting competition tables.

Graphs can make it easy to record and interpret information as well as help us to make predictions of things like the weather, interest rates and the future cost of our home electricity usage. Kids learn to read and interpret graphs and tables during maths lessons, and in other subjects too.

How kids learn to make and interpret graphs and tables

Kids learn to make graphs by collecting information in tables and use objects or pictures to represent this information as a graph.

In the early years, kids will be asked by their teacher to collect and record information about themselves, such as the pets they own, or about their environment, such as the colour of the cars in the car park. In early graphs, one picture stands for one object.

Later, kids learn to use tally marks (e.g. IIII III) to represent the results of surveys. They may be asked to use tally marks to record the number of cars that pass by the school during a given period of time. They will also be introduced to different types of graphs including column graphs, line graphs and sector (pie) graphs. It's important that kids know how to interpret graphs and be able to identify how graphs could misrepresent information.

What parents can do at home

  • Measure the height or weight of your child and track the changes over time on a graph.
  • The next time you come across a graph in a newspaper on a topic that would interest your child, sit down together and try to interpret it. Work together to answer questions such as, 'What is this graph telling us? How do we know whether the information is true? Is there a different way of representing this information? Is there anything that you don't understand?'
  • Show your child household bills which include graphs such as a water or electricity account and ask questions such as, 'How much more or less water did we use this time compared to the last bill? How can we save more water? How much do you think our water usage will go down if we do that? How much money do you think we will save?'
  • Together with your child, keep track of the time they spend watching TV. At the end of the week, see if together you can make a graph to show the time spent.
  • Play games such as ‘rock, paper, scissors' with your child and use tally marks to keep a record of wins and losses.
  • With your child, read and discuss information shown on sporting competition tables.
  • Read information books with your child and discuss tables and graphs that appear in them.
  • Show your child how to find and use a table of contents in a book.
  • Draw up a table of activities that your child completes during the week such as sports training, music or swimming lessons and household chores, or special times during the school week such as library, school sport or computers.
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