Math Graphs for Elementary Students

Graphs are used in subjects like social studies and science as well as math. In 3rd and 4th grade, you'll learn to represent data using simple graphs, and in 5th grade, you'll learn to graph coordinate points.

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Elementary Math Graphs

All graphs are built from two perpendicular lines called axes. The horizontal line is called the x-axis, and vertical one is called the y-axis. Each axis is labeled with a type of unit, like minutes or inches, or a category, like color or shape. For instance, if you record your height each year and make a graph of this data, you could put the units of time (years) along the x-axis and the units for height (inches) along the y-axis.

Picture Graphs

On a picture graph, one type of unit is represented with symbols. For example, imagine that you've divided the students in your class into groups based on the month each student was born. You could list the 12 months of the year along your graph's x-axis. Then, above each month, you could draw stick figures representing each student born in that month.

Bar Graphs

Bar graphs are very similar to picture graphs, except that data is represented by vertical bars instead of pictures. For instance, a bar graph showing how many boys and girls are in your class could have two categories listed along the x-axis ('boys' and 'girls') with a bar above each category. The y-axis would be numbered, and the height of each bar would correspond to the number of students representing that gender.

Line Plots

Line plots are often used to show how something goes up or down over time. For example, to graph the population of a city over ten years, you could label the graph's x-axis with each of the years. Then, you'd label the y-axis with numbers representing population. Next, you'd place a dot at the intersection of each year and the corresponding population figure for that year. Last, you'd connect the dots with a line.

Coordinate Graphs

Coordinate graphs also use x- and y-axes, and each axis is labeled with whole numbers that start from zero at the point where the two axes intersect. This point is called the origin. A vertical line extends upward from each number on the x-axis, and a horizontal line extends to the side from every number on the y-axis. These lines form the coordinate plane.

Wherever one of these lines intersects with another, a coordinate point is defined. For instance, the point (2, 5) is found at the intersection of the line that extends upward from the two on the x-axis and the line that extends horizontally from the five on the y-axis.

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