Data Handling: Graphs

Research has shown that data handling causes some problems for children in Science. What in particular do children find difficult at this transition stage?

  • Transferring information from tables to graphs
  • Knowing what type of graph to use
  • Identifying their own errors when constructing graphs
  • Understanding scale on the vertical axis
  • Using a graph to interpolate and extrapolate information
  • Remembering basic rules to create graphs
  • Using data to draw conclusions, support predictions and hypotheses
  • Describing patterns in a line graph
  • Describing relationships and links between actions
  • Recognising the importance of scale
  • Knowing how to select the appropriate scale for the horizontal and vertical axes
  • Plotting the line of best fit
  • Remembering standard conventions such as labeling axes and giving a graph title
  • Knowing that not all scales start with zero
  • Explaining results - telling the story of the graph
  • Understanding why some measurements need to be repeated and when they should be taken
  • Referring to data in graphs to substantiate statements
  • Knowing how to evaluate graphs - is the evidence reliable?
  • Describing and explaining data in a graph using scientific knowledge
  • Recognising and explaining unexpected results
  • Discussing variation in data

It can be useful to provide a self-check list so children can plan targets. An example of a graph self-check list is available here in an editable format so you can adapt it for your own use.

Cognitive Skills

In order to help children get to grips with these data handling skills, it is helpful to appreciate the progression of cognitive skills and set work that will move children from simple to more complex levels of understanding.

One useful approach is to base questioning on a cognitive model