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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bars, and Pictures, and Tallies, oh my!

We just ended the 2nd six weeks' grading period, and the last topic of research was graphs. Bar graphs, tally charts, pictographs, you name it.

It was a pretty fun topic to teach AND practice, and the kids seemed to be getting it pretty well. They really had no problem identifying the numbers that went with the bars, and little to no problem skip counting by whatever the key said on pictographs. Even early on, most seemed able to take some data and create their own graphs!

But then came the test yesterday. Despite the fact that we had looked at graph after graph, created graph after graph, made up question after question ABOUT said graphs, I still thought the results of the test were pretty disappointing.

Year after year, there is a question that merely asks "Sebastian had 16 of which type of coin?" Year after year, every single child correctly labels the bars on this graph -- 12 on the bar for quarters, 8 on the bar for dimes, 10 on the bar for nickels, and 16 on the bar for pennies. Year after year, more than a handful of kids choose quarters as their answer. Nevermind the fact that they themselves have written a "16" above the penny.


The last question of the test was a pictograph with pictures of boxes of pet food. The key stated that each picture represented 5 pets. Every child in my class correctly labelled the pictograph to show 45 dogs, 35 cats, etc, etc.

The question below asked "What is the total number of dogs that are pets in Juan and Carl's classroom?"

Almost 10 kids totally ignored the fact that they had written 45 next to the line for dogs and picked the answer "9" -- the number of pictures.


On the flip side, our 6-weeks' project was fun. The kids created a survey, polled other students, and then used that data to create charts and graphs. The end result was a large piece of construction paper divided into four sections. The first section was their original tally chart showing their topic ("Favorite _________") and the four choices, the second section was that data represented in bar graph form, the third section was the data in pictograph form, and the last section was three student-created questions about the data.

As per usual, the few kids who chose "Favorite Movies" as their topic chose 4 of the worst movies imaginable to survey fellow third-graders about. Movies like Saw IV, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. But other topics were fun, such as "Favorite book we've read," "Favorite Food," and "Favorite Teacher."

The graphs were good for the most part. But I was impressed with a lot of the questions being generated. Things like, "What is the difference in the number of blue and red?" And "How many kids were surveyed in all?"

Then, there were some questions that weren't exactly what I was looking for. One boy who had chosen "Favorite Cars" had these 3 questions:
1) How come everybody chose lamborginis?
2) Why didn't they choose the mustangs?
3) Nobody likes Cadillacs.

Hey, at least he was commenting on the data, right?


TeacherFromTN said...

This is exactly what our last test was! My kids did pretty well, but struggled with the same types of things yours did. When we made our own pictographs, two kids did the "Favorite Teacher" graph, and someone whose name is very close to mine won. Isn't it funny that we've been together since August, and they still can't spell their teacher's name?? Now we are on to multiplication, and I give GREAT prizes for passing timed facts tests--let the bribing begin!!

Sarah Garb said...

Collecting and graphing is pretty cool to teach and practice, and the data can be very high interest. Last year we had a very near snow day that was actually called a 2-hour delay. Most schools in our area had a snow day, and only HALF of my kids came to school. I scrapped much of what I had planned for the day and we spent a good long while collecting data on what fraction of each class and of the school was there that day, and then graphing on Excel.

luckeyfrog said...

Don't feel bad- our class did just about the same thing. We thought they were solid on graphing- until the test. :(