Creating appropriate tables and graphs is an important skill in analyzing and interpreting data. Often, students are given data tables or graph outlines to work with. Unfortunately, this means that few students know how to create tables and graphs on their own. In the post below, I discuss the benefits and important of having students create tables and graphs in their middle school science classes.
Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Creating Tables and Graphs in Middle School Science
Creating tables and graphs helps students to analyze and interpret data. This is one of the Science and Engineering Practices. So, this practice is an essential skill.
Why should students learn to create their own data tables in a science class?
Because students are often given tables to work with, they struggle with creating their own. This is especially problematic when students are designing their own investigations. Because their investigations are different from other groups, their data tables will also be different.
It's important for students to collect their data in an organized fashion. Organizing data into tables helps students to easily graph the data afterward. And, an organized table can helps students to organize their data for multiple trials.
Finally, this skill can help reinforce the concept of variables. As students create their data tables they must understand the difference between independent and dependent variables in their investigation.
Why should students graph their data in middle school?
Graphing is an essential skill that helps students to understand the relationship between variables. Often, students will be able to recognize patterns that they cannot see in a data table. For example, linear relationships are difficult to see on a data table.
Analyzing Data – One Big Place Where NGSS and Common Core Overlap
Since the start of Common Core, students have been analyzing and interpreting data on graphs starting in early elementary. Luckily, the shift in common core standards makes it easier to teach students how to create tables and graphs in your middle school science class.
Unfortunately, students are not likely to have create data tables and graphs in science prior to middle school. However, they will probably have the prior knowledge from math to help them with this skill. Still, it is important that you provide explicit instruction in your science course.
Where will students need help with graphing?
In upper elementary, students primarily create bar graphs. Then, in 6th grade, students begin to plot data points in their math courses. However, this skill is developing throughout middle school and many students have difficulty with this skill.
Also, students struggle with identify independent and dependent variables. So, I suggest reviewing this skill often. For example, when students come across a graph or data table in an article, it's a good idea to have them identify the independent and dependent variable.
NGSS Alignment to the Middle School Grade Band
- There are many subcomponents to the Science and Engineering Practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data. While this skill doesn't cover all of these subcomponents, it does address a couple.
For example, middle school students are required to be able to construct, analyze and interpret graphical displays of data. Also, students should be able to interpret data to find evidence for a phenomenon. To see all of the subcomponents of the practice, check out the NSTA Matrix for the Science and Engineering Practices.
How can I help students create tables and graphs for their science class online?
Many students are learning in a remote setting this school year. Additionally, many teachers are making the shift to digital note booking. Consequently, it's important for students to be able to graph online as well as on paper.
So, I created this resource so I could teach students how to graph even when they are learning online.
This resource is made for Google™ Presentations and includes:
- A presentation explaining how to create data tables and graphs
- A quick Google ™ Form to check for understanding
- A student worksheet on Google™ Presentations that requires students to plot points from a data table, identify variables and recognize patterns on a graph.
- Graphing Data in an NGSS classroom
- Google Slides™ for Graph Annotations
- How to Use Google Sheets to Create Graphs
- TPT Resource – Creating Data Tables and Graphs for Middle School