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Excel Math Blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Picture This: Graphing Our Summer Vacation

Excel Math Picture Graph

Let's take a look at how to make picture graphs interesting and understandable.

In Excel Math, we help students create and explain their own picture graphs, line plots, circle graphs, bar graphs, and more!

Try out an Excel Math scaled picture graph (such as the one on the left) with your own class.

Then let your students (or family members) begin a summer data project and create their own picture graphs.

Encourage students to track, for example, their calorie intake, their finances or the number of miles that they travel on vacations.

In the summer months, with more free time, are they consuming more food than they would during the rest of the year? More vegetables or more junk food? Are they spending more time shopping? Are they spending more money on sports and activities? 

Students might use a picture of a car to indicate miles traveled each week in July. One car could represent 10 miles or 100 miles, depending on how far they plan to travel over the summer. A picture of an airplane or boat could represent 1000 miles, if the distances are even longer.

Misson Trails Dam

pretzel tally

A summer data project can help students extend math learning throughout the summer months.

Each student can choose a topic, collect data, make a tally chart and then a graph, and finally share the results with the rest of the class.

Or have family members work in pairs to collect data and make graphs, with older children helping younger ones.

Some websites let your students create their own picture graphs or have them use a given data set to complete the picture graph provided.

Here are just a few:

Illuminations Data Grapher - once on this website, click on Pictograph for the picture graph. You can also create a bar graph, line graph and pie chart. Click on the sun image to see other picture options. Here's a pictograph we created. You can print the graphs or save them as PDF files after they are created. (Click on Print, then PDF. Pull down Save under the File menu and save the file in a folder with a name you will remember.)

picture graph from Australia gives a picture graph key and a set of data. The student clicks on the images to create the picture graph so it matches the data. Before printing it, he can check to make sure the graph is correct. The finished chart can be printed or saved as a PDF. Here's one of the graphs:

Learning Place graph
Picture Graph from

TurtleDiary lets young elementary children click the pictures to make a tally chart, venn diagram and picture graph. Here's an example:

Turtle graph
Picture Graph from

Picture graphs are visual representations of information. Often we use scaled picture graphs to show larger amounts of data. One picture may represent two or more items. For example, in the graph shown at the right, each newspaper image represents two newspapers sold. So half a newspaper equals one paper sold.

Show the graph to your students. Ask them to find out how many newspapers Maxine and Nick sold.

Then have the class solve the picture graph shown at the beginning of this post. Ask them how many more letters Chris sent than Lucio. The answers appear below.

picture graph
Excel Math Scaled Picture Graph

There is usually a title for the picture graph at the top. Along the left side and the bottom there are labels identifying the information to be represented. A picture graph also needs to have a key to explain what the pictures represent.

Newspaper Answer Graph Answer
Excel Math Scaled Picture Graphs Answers

New to Excel Math? Preview elementary math lessons that really work for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade on our website: Also find math resources for teachers, parents and students and take a walk through the curriculum at

You might also like these articles:

School's Out for Summer
Staying Fit Over the Summer Break
Helping Math Students Excel During the Transition to Common Core
Summer: A Season of Math Learning

Learn about Excel Math Summer School.

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