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Glorious Graphing in the Summer Sun for First and Second Graders

By Patricia Gable

As children explore their environments in the summertime, it is easy to incorporate some math, but not the typical addition and subtraction. Instead, make some graphs together to show how two or more things are connected.

Why Graphs?

Summer Graphing Grades 1 and 2 Graphs show us information without using unnecessary words. There are varieties of graphs: bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs and pictographs. Children will be able to answer questions, solve problems and see patterns. Creating graphs together is also fun!

Making Simple Graphs

  • You can use Legos in different colors for a three-dimensional bar graph
  • Use a paper plate to make a pie chart.
  • Purchase a tablet of 1-inch graph paper or use blank paper and a ruler to make bar graphs and line graphs
  • Have stickers, colored pencils and crayons handy to add information to the graph
  • If you would rather print out some custom graphs, the National Center for Education Statistics offers a free tool to help you. A link to the website is in the References section.

Non-Traditional Graphs

  • Use a hula-hoop to make a pie chart (circle graph). Mark off the sections with string or yarn
  • Use Skittles, jellybeans or M&Ms as markers on a graph

Vacation Graphing:

If you are traveling by car be on the lookout for license plates from different states. Use tally marks to keep track of what you see. Then write the names of the states across the bottom of the graph paper and numbers going up from 1-10 on the left side. Use crayons to color a square for each plate that was seen. Then ask:

  • You saw the most plates from which state? The least amount?
  • How many different plates did you see?
  • Choose two different states and add them together.

Designate a time period and keep track of the colors of cars that you see. Use the same procedure as above but use corresponding crayons to match the colors of the cars. Vary it by counting kinds of trucks or RVs.

Depending on where you go on vacation, find something else to study: kinds of seashells, colors of bathing suits, types of foods eaten, zoo animals, etc.

In and Around the House

With a pad and paper take a walk around the neighborhood and write down the animals that you see. Remember to include bugs or birds. Then use the information to make a pictograph. Write the name of the animal and draw one picture for each one that you saw. Which animal was seen the most? The least?

Do the same thing, but this time notice the colors of houses. Draw a little house for each color that you saw.

Keep track of the high temperature each day for a week or two. Then make a line graph to see if the temperatures changed greatly or remained the same. Put temperature on the left side going up vertically and “Day 1, Day 2, etc.” across the bottom of the graph. Place a dot on the temperature each day and then connect the dots with a ruler. What day was the hottest? The coolest?

Keep track of how you spent your time during a 24-hour period. (Sleeping, playing, eating, watching TV, etc.) Then use a paper plate to make a pie chart. Use spaghetti noodles glued in place to mark each section. What activity took up the most time? The least?

Library Trip

Find some age appropriate books that teach children about using graphs to gather and understand information. For example, Tiger Math shows real world use of graphs to show the growth of an orphaned tiger cub. Children also learn about the Siberian tiger.

The References section provides several good choices that you can find in a library or on a book-selling website.