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# Don’t Do This When Teaching Graphs

To enjoy the week before Christmas break, I decided to try out a lesson idea I had about pictographs. I built this lesson around misconceptions that students always have about keys with numbers larger than one. The day before I taught this lesson, I was asked to teach math at a moment’s notice in another third grade class. When this third grade class interpreted a pictograph with a key of four, I noticed that this was really way too easy for these smart students. I decided to change my planned lesson idea into something more challenging. This is how the lesson went…

First, I did a quick lesson for understanding. I surveyed the class about their favorite ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. I then made a frequency table with this information on the board. With some yellow circle die-cuts with one circle to represent two children’s votes, I asked the class how many votes needed to stand for each flavor. Students did this very well even if this required half of a circle for one person. Then I had each flavor group stand in a different area of the room and I passed out the number of circles the children told me to each group. When I passed out the circles to each group and instructed the students to write their name on a circle, some disequilibrium arose. Students said they didn’t get a circle. I told them to talk to their group and they finally understood that they would need two names on each circle. I couldn’t have been more proud of this part of the lesson and the mathematical practices that arose from their discussion. Then came the next part of the lesson…

I previously gathered real life data about students’ favorite Christmas candy.

• I chose four types of candy: fudge, candy canes, M&M’s, and chocolate Santa’s. I gave three third grade classes each a roll list with a blank beside it for the students to write their favorite candy on. I collected these vote (data) sheets right before the lesson (mistake #1 don’t do this). I made six copies of the data sheets for each of the groups.
• In the lesson I presented the children with the data and told them to create a tally chart/frequency table with the data. Students waded through this for a long time without consistent results. I should have counted the data before I passed it out even though I had estimated the results to around a total of 66 students. I ended up having to total it up while the students were counting (mistake #2 don’t do this). Have your data counted before you pass it out, so you know when your students are way off. (But, hey, in my defense, I have been pulled in all directions lately, substitute, fill in secretary, test coordinator, you name it.)
• I made one student in each group of four responsible to count each class’s data since there were three classes and one student to record the data on a table. This worked very well to keep every child involved in the group.
• We stopped the lesson to ensure the children had the correct data before we proceeded with graphing. I wanted to be respectful of the teacher’s time while I was in her room, but I may have had them check to see if their data was correct in a different way, such as, compare your data with a different group and see if you agree before I just revealed the correct answers.