I know I have been pretty specific about what makes a “good” graphing experience for young children and what falls short. I tend to get pretty hard-headed about these things, really believing that there are “rules” that when followed, will produce a pretty good experience.
The graphing mat pictured above breaks many of my “rules.” Most importantly, once completed, it can’t be kept in the classroom for further study and reflection. What it lacks in permanence, it more than makes up for in size and usefulness.
This mat is best used with children sitting around the edges of it so they can really participate in the creation of the graph. The mat can be used to investigate all sorts of classroom questions and rather than creating ways to represent objects, the children can use the actual objects themselves for their data set.
Imagine that the children in your room want to know if more children wore mittens to school or if more children wore gloves. In a matter of minutes, you could pull this mat out, have the children go to their cubbies and get their gloves/mittens, and then take turns placing them in the graph. When everyone has had a turn, the children will see, in an obvious and clear way, whether more kids wore gloves or mittens.
You don’t have to purchase one of these (although the ones from the teacher’s store tend to be pretty sturdy). You can make one with some colored tape and a plastic shower curtain from the dollar store. Every room should have one of these, as it makes graphing a breeze.