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Teach the Skills: Graphing

Graphing:  Make this a part of as many lessons as possible!

I am going to be writing about science skills for a while.  If you missed my article from yesterday, then please scroll down and you will know exactly why I am preaching about science skills!  My plan is to "talk" about a different skill everyday.

Today, the topic is "Graphing".  Obviously, we want students to become masters of problem solving and critical thinking.  Make as many of your labs and classroom activities as possible "quantitative" in nature.  I do many activities that are "qualitative" and involve drawing and describing, but most of my labs are math based and involve the collection of numerical data.  Here are some quick reasons why this is so important in your teaching:

  1. Many students are reaching high school without a clear understanding of how to construct a graph.
  2. Students must be able to identify the independent and the dependent variables and know which axis to place them on.
  3. It provides an opportunity to have students think through a problem and determine a possible solution.
  4. By placing several lines of data on the same graph, you can have the students practice how to analyze data to reach a proper conclusion.
  5. You can provide additional problem solving questions to accompany the graphing activity, such as "What do you suppose would happen if this were changed....", or "What would be the outcome if...."
  6. You can include interpolation and extrapolation questions.
  7. The science questions on many standardized tests (ACT, our State End of Course Test) ask students questions that involve the reading and interpreting of tables and graphs.

I hope these reasons will convince you to include more tabling, graphing and analyzing of information.  But, please!!!  No graphing calculators!!!  (This is a pet peeve of mine that needs to be the subject of another article at another time!)  I firmly believe the calculator is crippling our students.  The calculator is a wonderful tool.....but AFTER the student can do the skill without the calculator.

If you need some help getting started in incorporating graphing into your classes, these products might be of some help to you:

Lab:  Acids, Bases and Cells   Requires extensive graphing of results.

Tabling, Graphing and Analyzing Data   PowerPoint with Notes for Teacher and Student


  1. It is VERY true that when students hit high school they don't have the right SKILLS for biology. (I teach freshmen!)

    I'm going to spend almost 2 weeks teaching my students the scientific method, the difference between observation and inference, constructing a lab, and graphing their results!

    It's going to be a lot of work, but I know it will pay off for the rest of the year!

  2. Rhoda, You are absolutely right. Once you teach these skills, the rest of the year will flow very nicely!