Teaching with graphing activities is one of the most enjoyable Math units of the year. Try these ideas for hands-on fun in the classroom!
Graphing Activities and Probability Lessons
It can be difficult for kids to understand what data is and how to organize it. For example, if you pour a bag of Skittles out into a pile and ask him/her how many red skittles there are, they will probably not be able to do so. The point of a graph is to organize data in an understandable way. In other words, organizing data into a graph helps kids answer questions about the data easily.
Graphing also allows kids to practice their sorting and observation skills as they sort items into like groups. In class, you can sort items by color, size, number, and or other descriptors. As a result, young learners become familiar with sorting information and graphing it. Most importantly, they develop math skills that they’ll use throughout their entire lives!
Kids can also gain a lot of insight into how probability plays out in our everyday lives. By using classroom activities and games, experiencing probability is an enjoyable learning time. Understanding comes easy with the ideas listed here!
Types of Graphs
Teach data analysis with graphing activities, and you enlighten and encourage a visual perspective of numbers. In return, math comes alive with useful and life-applicable skills in graphing. Whether coloring in a bar graph or creating a line plot, these different graphing activities will give kids the tools they need to understand graphing and data analysis.
- Tally Marks for Charts – Using tally marks & tally charts is a simple way to introduce graphing to kids. Kids count items and tally them up, creating a visual representation of the data they’ve collected.
- Pie Charts/Pie Graphs – These give kids an easy visual for understanding data. Start by comparing two things in a pie graph, using two different colors to depict the information. As they master this skill, they can compare more items.
- Pictographs – Pictures are worth a thousand words. This is definitely the case for pictographs. Pictographs use pictures to show information, making it a great starting point for kids.
- Line Plots – Line plots make it easy to show and compare a lot of information at once. This can be done with more than one line in different colors, making it easy to compare multiple results.
Hands-On Graphing Activities
Graphing can be a lot of fun and is usually a favorite unit of the year. Use hands-on methods to graph data. These methods meet the needs of kinesthetic and visual learners. Plus, they’re just a fun way for all kids to learn! These graphing activities can easily be completed with a few basic supplies.
- Play Connect Four – In addition to being a game, Connect 4 can also be used to graph information, Simply label the rows and columns appropriately and then drop in the pieces to create a bar graph!
- Sticky Notes – Sticky notes can be used to create a graph on a whiteboard. For example, draw the graph on the whiteboard and then have kids answer the question by placing a sticky note in the appropriate space.
- Legos – Lego blocks make great manipulatives for graphing. Kids can stack Lego blocks together to create a 3D graphing model.
- Human Graphing – In order to get kids moving and having fun, create a human graph! If graphing the color of shirts kids have on, then have kids line up on a grid taped to the floor. All of the kids with white shirts line up in one column, while kids in yellow shirts line up in the next, and so on.
- Sorting with Candy – Another alternative to coloring in a graph on a piece of paper is to use the items being sorted as a manipulative. For example, if sorting M&Ms or Skittles into colors, set those items on a graph, stacking them in the appropriate column. Sorting is also fun with sorting cards.
- Fruit Loops – Fruit Loops stacked on skewers is a hands-on way to graph by color. To create the graph, simply stick wooden skewers into a box, lining them up evenly. Give kids a handful of Fruit Loops and have them stack by color on the skewers. The more Fruit Loops there are on a skewer, the higher it’ll be, giving kids a great visual of what a graph is.
- Coin Flip – Create a graph by flipping a coin. With each flip of the coin, kids can record whether they got heads or tails.
- Online Games – Kids love playing games online. Conveniently, there are many online games for graphing, such as Fuzz Bugs on ABCya. Find a game that is appropriate for the age and skill level of the class and then set it up as a small group centers activity.
- Apple Tasting – This is a tasty way to create a bar graph! Slice up a red, yellow, and green apple and have kids try a slice from each color. Then, kids can then vote on what their favorite apple color was, creating a class graph with the data.
- Dice Data – Gather dice and a blank graph to play a roll-and-graph game. To play, kids roll the dice and mark on the graph the number they rolled. They continue this, getting more data for the graph with each roll.
Topics for Graphing Activities
Kids learn better when there is a personal connection to the topic. In other words, surveying the class on a specific topic or opinion is one way to connect kids to what they’re learning. Ask them what their favorite food or sport is. Figure out when each kid’s birthday is or what color of shirt they’re wearing. Use this data to create a graph together as a whole class. It will help introduce the concept in a way that they can understand, while also modeling the correct way to gather information and plot it on a graph.
- Birthdays – Create a class graph that shows the month for each kid’s birthday. Not only will this introduce graphing, but it is also a great way to remember and celebrate each kid’s birthday.
- Favorite Colors – Take a poll on favorite colors and graph the information as a whole class. An alternative to this would be to already have a few colors listed and kids must decide which of those set colors is their favorite.
- Breakfast Foods – Ask kids what they ate for breakfast that morning and create a graph with the information. Alternatively, another graph could include favorite breakfast foods.
- Pets – Survey the class about pets they have at home. One way to do this is to survey how many pets they have and graph that information. You can also survey the types of pets they have, such as cats, dogs, fish, etc.
- Hair Color – Have kids get up and gather into small groups according to hair color. Use this information to create a class graph.
- Lunch Options – This survey is something that can be done every day. Kids can move a magnet with their name on it to a lunch options graph. This graph can include hot lunch, packed lunch, salad bar, or any other lunch options available at school.
- Activities/Sports – Find out what sports kids play or what activities they’re into and create a graph for that.
Probability Games and Activities
Teaching probability to kids involves giving them hands-on experiences that display probability in everyday life. There are several fun games and activities you can do in the classroom to give your students. These provide opportunities to learn what probability is, and how to use that understanding to make decisions or predict outcomes. They will be able to answer questions such as, “How likely is it for this to occur?” and “What is the probability of this happening?”
- Dice games – There are plenty of ways to use dice as a means of teaching probability. Have students roll one die and find out the probability of rolling a specific number. Or, you can have them roll two dice to predict the probability of the two numbers to add up to six. You can probably think of more probability games to play with dice that are simple in nature, just like those two examples.
- Card games – Basic card games can be a fun way to talk about probability. Play Old Maid and see the probability of getting the Old Maid card. Play a matching game such as Speed or Slapjack, and discuss the probability of winning moves or gaining a “Wild” card, etc.
- Vocabulary practice – Talk about the likelihood of events happening and use probability vocabulary. For example, have the children draw a line on their whiteboards with one end representing “certain” and the other end representing “impossible.” Then, ask them to draw a mark for their answers to questions like “How likely is it that we will be served pizza tomorrow in the cafeteria?” or “What’s the probability that it will be cloudy tomorrow?” etc.
- Spinner games – Use a pie graph split into several equal sections and labeled by colors or by number. Use a pencil and a paper clip as a simple spinner. Then, have students estimate the probability of the spinner landing on specific sections. Try these spinner probability games here for more fun!
- Candy – Multi-colored candy such as M&M’s, Skittles, jellybeans are a tasty way to practice probability. Have students guess the probability of pulling one color from a blind bag or box, and if they’re correct, they get to eat it!
- Matching Games – Use playing cards or an actual matching board game to talk about the probability of finding a match.
- Online Games – Finding a great online probability game such as Mr. Nussbaum’s is a plus. Kids can play on the classroom laptops or tablets, and see probability in action. It also tests their knowledge and rewards them with immediate results and motivating graphics.
Graphing & Probability Children’s Books
Reading books can help kids learn graphing and data analysis. For example, these data analysis books will help kids learn how to graph, introducing them to different kinds of graphs. From pie charts to bar graphs, kids will explore data analysis as they graph information in an understandable way.
- Lemonade for Sale by Stuart J. Murphy – Lemonade sales include a lot of information … that’s why the characters in this book decide to create a graph! Follow the characters and learn more about graphing information in a fun and exciting way.
- The Great Graph Contest by Loreen Leedy – This book introduces readers to all different kinds of graphs. From bar graphs to Venn diagrams, readers will discover how graphs can help organize information in an easily understandable way.
- Tally O’Malley by Stuart J. Murphy – How many grey cars or green t-shirts do these characters see on their trip to the beach? The answer is easy to find as the characters tally their answers, playing a game as they see who can spot the most.
- Family Reunion by Bonnie Bader – Gary Graff, the main character in this book, has a graphing assignment due. He completes his assignment at his family reunion, learning a lot about math and his family at the same time.
- Tiger Math: Learning to Graph from a Baby Tiger by Ann Whitehead Nagda – This book follows the life of a tiger cub as he grows up in a zoo. In addition to learning more about tigers, kids will also get to learn basic math graphing skills, including pie charts and bar graphs.
- The Best Vacation Ever by Stuart J. Murphy – Mathstart publishes books that help teach concepts such as probability, like in this book. Use it to help students understand the concept in a visual story.
- It’s Probably Penny by Loreen Leedy – In this entertaining book about a girl named Lisa, the concept of probability is addressed. Lisa is trying to do her homework assignment.
- Probably Pistachio by Stuart J. Murphy – Teach vocabulary useful for probability understanding with a cute story about a character named Jack who has a streak of bad luck.
- That’s a Possibility by Bruce Goldstone – The author teaches children about things being possible or impossible with examples.
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett – This is a beloved story about a town in which the weather was anything but normal. Food fell from the sky! Kids love this one, which also has elements of chance and probability within the story.
Resources for Teaching Graphing and Probability
The activities seen in this post are available in various resources found on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click the images above to visit the unit that has the activity seen in the photo. Find out why teachers love the Mindful Math program for Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
Kindergarten Graphing and Sorting Unit
First Grade Graphing & Money Unit
Second Grade Data Analysis, Graphing, & Probability Unit
What Teachers are Saying About Mindful Math Graphing Units
“My students loved the activities that went with this unit.” ~ Kimberly K.
“This resource is incredible. In depth and very engaging!” ~ Katelyn D.
“Love Proud to be Primary’s math units! Such a well-rounded way to teach math – pulling in literacy, whole and small group learning, independent practice, games, centre activities, journaling and more. Wonderfully scaffolded and easy to differentiate.” ~ Leah J.
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Graphing Activities & Probability Classroom Materials
Have good resources on hand to teach graphing and data analysis. Most importantly, using manipulatives while making graphs will help make learning more meaningful for kids. In addition to cubes and counting bears, having pocket charts and graphing mats will also help kids sort data together as they graph what they’re learning. Set up different graphing activities for learning centers, giving kids plenty of different ways to practice graphing. These graphing and sorting lessons have everything needed to do this.
- Either a two-column pocket chart or a three-column pocket chart makes it easy to create a graph as a whole class. Display the graph in the classroom to get kids more familiar with graphing concepts.
- Grab some bear counters and counting bear activity sheets for some graphing fun. Kids will get a ton of hands-on graphing experience as they complete each task card.
- Graph and display birthdays with this birthday graph pocket chart. It includes wipe-off laminate cards so it can be used year and after year in the classroom.
- Mathlink cubes can be used to build a 3D bar graph of important information. As a result, kids will have fun stacking blocks as they create a simple graph.
- Ready to get kids moving and having fun while they learn? This floor graphing mat is just the thing. Kids will move around as they create a huge graph on the classroom floor.
- When comparing data, a Venn diagram pocket chart can help organize the information in an easily understandable way.
- Playing cards are a staple to have in the classroom for probability games – grab this pack of 8 which includes simple designs and colors perfect for children.
- Want a die that the whole classroom can see? This is a great one which is also write-on, wipe-off!
- Versatiles are perfect for a variety of classroom lessons, including probability and statistics!
- Use these pre-made probability spinners in your games and activities – perfect for a variety of learning opportunities.
Finding the right graphing activities is the key to success in teaching data analysis. Kids learn this important math skill with explicit teaching, and practice, and repetition. However, the most important thing is to make learning fun. The above activities will do that for your students.
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