A note on graphing. While I was teaching in Texas, I had an opportunity to attend a week long workshop on the AIMS method. Let me tell you. It was the BEST, and most useful, workshop I ever attended. I walked away from it with tons of resources (a box full of manipulatives, several books, and a zillion ideas). AIMS stands for 'Activities for Integrating Math and Science'. The program is built around teaching math and science holistically, integrating it into the wider classroom curriculum. Instead of teaching a 'graph unit', as most math curricula do, AIMS encourages fitting in graphing exercises with other content, which makes the activity concrete for the child and connected to real learning.
Note that the following activity can be done with ANYTHING: a leaf or rock collection, heights of students in the classroom, eye color, snack preferences, types of fruit on the counter...
Lesson: Graphing Coins
Purpose: Child will create a pictograph and a bar graph representing a selected number of coins.
Materials: A pile of assorted coins (make sure you have a selection of pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters, and half dollars if you wish). Two pieces of construction paper. Markers or other writing implements.
1. Give the child a pile of coins. Across the bottom of a piece of construction paper, write, 'P, N, D, Q'. (or write out the entire coin name. I was lazy). Instruct the child to sort the coins in lines corresponding with the correct label.
2. When the child has sorted all her coins, explain that she just made a special kind of graph called a 'pictograph'. Ask her what word she hears in 'pictograph' (picture). Tell her we call it a 'pictograph' because it is a graph of pictures of things. In this case, coins. Tell her we will now make another kind of graph called a 'bar graph'. Draw out a simple grid on the second sheet of construction paper, with the same labels at the bottom as your pictograph (make sure the grid has enough spaces for your number of coins), and set it beside the pictograph. Ask the child, "How many quarters do you have?"
3. Guide her in counting the number of quarters, and coloring in the corresponding number of bars on the bar graph. Repeat the process for the dimes, nickles and pennies (and half dollars, if you're doing them. We didn't because let's face it, who uses half dollars? If she were in second grade or older, I'd probably use them, but I'm trying to keep it concrete to her world right now.)
4. When child has completed the bar graph, compare the two graphs. Point out that both graphs show the same information (number of coins), but display it in different ways (pictures vs. bars).