Less is More: Interpretation of Graphs

Inspired by recent conversation through blogs and on Twitter, I have been exploring analysis of visual images by removing barriers.  The barriers to interpret graphs include the details of numbers and labels.  These specific details are what makes the graphs precise and impact the interpretation, so this gradual reveal allows learners to access the graph as a whole at the appropriate time, not all at once.  In addition, the numbers and labels are intentionally revealed so attention is focused on those as the discussion promotes.  The structure of notice and wonder supports learners to interpret the graphs without being confined by the details of the graph.  That is, by allowing learners to consider the graph first, the learners are allowed to construct meaning in anticipation of transfer to new and unique situations.

The order of gradual reveal includes: the graph of the data with trend lines (that does not show specific points), the graph of the data with specific points, then the graph of the data with labels, the data in the chart.

The example below is related to Stock Market data.   The concepts behind the Stock Market are abstract to young children.  By removing the details on the graph to allow them to focus without clutter makes the math accessible, even to abstract ideas.  This promotes inquiry and fosters the mathematical discourse community.  The meaning making in this structure is the value that cannot be overlooked.  Guiding learners to make connections and interpret representations and abstract images supports them as they look to transfer this understanding.

Step 1: Graph with Trend Lines

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.26.24 AM

Step 2: Graph with Specific Points

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.26.32 AM

Step 3: Graph with Labels

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.26.38 AMStep 4: Data in Chart

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.27.41 AM


The barriers removed in this structure allow learners to access the mathematical content.  I continue to explore removing barriers in curriculum and instruction including:

  • removing the barrier of language
  • removing the barrier of disengagement
  • removing the barrier of limits
  • removing the barrier of time
  • removing the barrier of prerequisite knowledge

We must design for the margins.  For whom is the curriculum designed if not for all?







One thought on “Less is More: Interpretation of Graphs

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this example! I especially like the part at the end where you talk about eliminating barriers. That’s definitely a goal of mine! I believe strongly that math should be accessible to each and every one of our students. It’s up to us to design learning environments and experiences that make that possible, including activities like numberless word problems and graphs.


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