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Why I use graphing worksheets in my science class

Three Simple Reasons Why I Give Graphing Worksheets To My Students

Why I use graphing worksheets in my science class

At the beginning of each school year there are a series of activities that I give to my students in my science class.  And at the top of my list is time spent in class reviewing how to display data with graphing worksheets and graphing activities.

Yes, I agree that converting data from a table into a graph or chart are covered in standards from earlier grades.  But more often than not, the ability to create an accurate and easy to read graph is a skill that many of my freshmen still have not mastered.  

Graphing data is a skill that will be used in most of the labs that will be done throughout the year.  Furthermore, graphing the results from an experiment and then answering questions about their results will strengthen their ability to interpret data, a skill that is tested on future exams they are likely to take.

The bottom line is this.  I would rather invest an hour or so of class time on graphing than cringe every time a student turns in a lab report with a poorly constructed graph.  So here are 3 reasons why I use graphing worksheets in my high school science class .

Graphing Worksheets Allow Me The Opportunity To Review How To Calculate The Different Types Of Averages

Many students know how to calculate the mean average of a group of numbers, but if you ask them to tell you the median average you are likely to see some blank faces.  And then if you ask them to tell you the mode.  Well. Good luck.  Most students are completely lost (even if they were taught these terms in a prior class).

So before we actually get into graphing data, I spend 10-20 minutes talking about averages and have my students do some simple problems just to dust off their math skills.  From there we can organize our data and prepare to graph it.

Graphing Worksheets Help My Students Determine Which Type Of Graph To Make

For the purposes of my class, we organize data into line graphs, bar graphs, and pie charts.  However, most years there are a significant number of students who aren’t fully confident on which graph to use in which situation.  Have you found students in your class that are guessing more than confidently answering when asked what type of graph to use?  Chances are that you have.

While students have a strong understanding that we will use a pie chart to display percentages,  less are sure when to use a line graph and when to use a bar graph.   In our Introduction to Biology lecture notes we discuss when to use each.  And then with graphing worksheets as practice, students are able to get the needed repetition to strengthen their graphing skills.

Introduction to graphing worksheet activity

Students Need Reminders On How To Label All The Parts Of A Graph

In addition to determining the scale of the graph and plotting the data points, there are other components of a complete graph.  Again, having my students work on a graphing activity allows us to slow down and strengthen our skills so they aren’t holding us back later in the school year.  As part of my graphing activity worksheet, students practice writing a title, labeling each axis, and creating a legend.

In addition to teaching freshman biology, I taught AP Biology for a dozen years.  And each year I showed students actual AP rubrics where students received points for accurately setting up their graph, even if the data was wrong.  One place graphing shows up during our first semester of content is when teaching photsynthesis. To help students understand that chlorophyll absorbs light better at some wavelengths than others, we graph the data. Graphing builds a stronger understanding of the content. It’s that important.

In Conclusion

If you are thinking of skipping past graphing worksheets in your classroom and jumping directly into the content, hopefully this post will get you to think twice.   Graphing is a skill that will show up not just throughout your class, but in future science classes as well.


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