Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making a Point With Charts and Graphs

In my classroom I try to teach students about the power of facts when trying to prove a point. After all, if you make some sort of pronouncement, you should be able to back it up with proof. If you don't have any information to back up your opinion, your audience will probably not take you very seriously. This is a lesson many of them struggle to learn, and I often get "persuasive" essays that could not convince a dog to roll in stinky things. Fortunately, Elder Niece is not like these ineffectual weaklings. She is a girl of intellectual muscle, (but I'm not biased!) and she knows that every good point must be proved.

Recently, while the nieces were visiting for the weekend, I noticed Elder Niece making a bar graph. She seemed quite serious about the task, so I did not want to disturb her. However, M heard her describe the purpose of the graph to her sister. It seems that Elder Niece is required by her father (The Strictest Parent Ever) to go to bed at a certain time on school nights. She views this bedtime as unreasonably harsh and would like to negotiate a new deal. She surveyed all the students in her class, and then translated the data to her graph. Bedtimes went on the X-axis, while numbers of kids appeared on the Y-axis. Her graph proves that her bedtime is earlier than the majority of kids in her class.

Now I have read many, many story problems in my career as a student and a teacher. They always seem to me to be terribly contrived situations involving numbers of pizzas and numbers of seats at picnic tables. However, I can honestly say that this was a real-life example of a story problem in action. Who knows if Elder Niece was successful in her bedtime campaign or not, but there can be no doubt that she makes a damn fine graph to prove her point.

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