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Computers and Homework

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You Can Make a Graph!
by Hilda and Henrietta, 10/26/2006

Note: Ask your parents to work with you on this activity. They'll help you get started with learning to make great graphs, and they'll want to learn about software that can help you with the graphs you need to make.

What is a graph?

You've probably seen graphs in the newspapers, in magazines and in your textbooks. They are a great way to give people information without writing it out in a paragraph. For instance, you could write a paragraph telling about how tall you and your friends are, or you could make a graph to show the same information. There are all kinds of graphs-some of them look like bars going across or up and down on a piece of paper, some look like lines moving across a box, and some look like multi-colored pies.

Have you ever made a graph?

Maybe your teacher gave you a worksheet with a graph you had to fill in, or maybe you had to make one from scratch.

Let's say your teacher wants you to do a graph about types of pets. She asked everyone in the class about their pets, and this is what she discovered:

7 kids had dogs
6 kids had cats
4 kids had goldfish
2 kids had birds
3 kids had hamsters

So what can you do with this information to make it into a graph?

Take a piece of paper and put a line along the bottom of it. Math and science people call this the X-axis.  Write the names of the animals along the line.

Dogs              Cats                 Goldfish                Birds                Hamsters             

Next you'll make what is called the Y-axis. It's a straight line like the X axis, but it is up and down or vertical, not sideways or horizontal like the X-axis. Put numbers on the Y axis just like this:

graph

Now you are ready to show how many animals your class has. Use bars or rectangles to show the numbers of dogs, cats, goldfish, birds, and hamsters. You can color the bars different colors like we did.

graph

Look at your graph, and you'll see how many of each kind of animal the kids in your class have.

Making Graphs on a Computer

This is the kind of graph you can draw on your own on paper or use the computer to help you. We made our graph using word processing software. You can also make a graph with a paint program such as Kid Pix, but it's lots easier to make really neat graphs with software that's meant to help you make graphs.

With graphing software, such as Graph Club2 you can create all kinds of graphs in no time. If you using Graph Club2, for example, to make the same graph we did about animals, you can press your mouse button and add a dog at a time until you get to seven dogs, and you can use icons or drawings that look like dogs on your graph. Instead of the yellow bar we made for the dogs, you could have seven dogs. Instead of the red bar, you could have six cats. You get the idea. It sure would make your graph more interesting.

With graphing software, you can also change your graph into different forms. You've seen graphs that look like pies. With the animal graph, you'd have a pie filled with pieces that show how many dogs, cats, goldfish, birds, and hamsters you and your classmates have.

If you'd like to learn more about graphing software ask your parents if it is okay to learn about Graph Club2 online. Go to the Tom Snyder site and click on the Product Tour. It's really neat and shows you lots. The tour will take you about five minutes, and it will show you all the fun graphs you can create.

Graph Club2 is meant for students in Grades K-4, but if you or your parents are interested in graphing software that is designed for Grades 4 Up, you'll want to take a look at a program called InspireData. You can take a Quick Tour of the software or download a 30-day free trial version.

Of course, you don't have to have graphing software to make graphs, but it will make it easier for you to create some very interesting graphs. You may be a really good artist and like to make your own graphs. Then you'll probably just love making them by hand.

No matter whether you make your graphs by hand or on the computer, you'll find that graphs are a great way to show information. Think of how many things you can show with a graph: what the kids in your class eat for lunch, the population of the different towns in your state, and who wants to be what when they grow up, what sports people like, what kids have birthdays in what months-you'll think of lots of ideas.

Information for Your Parents

Graph Club 2
Tom Snyder Productions
http://www.tomsnyder.com/graphclub
Mac and PC
Approximately $80
45-day free trial

InspireData
Inspiration
http://www.inspiration.com
Mac and PC
Approximately $70 with rebate
30-day free trial

Create A Graph
http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph
Free graphing software from the Center for Education Statistics



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