Helping students plot data
Because many introductory geoscience courses deal with graphs and graphing, we have designed this page to help to remind students how to use the Cartesian coordinate system. This page includes a very basic discussion of how to find the placement of a point on a binary plot.
An instructor's guide to Plotting Points
This page is designed to help students learn the basics of plotting points on a graph. By the time the students complete the module, they should be comfortable with:
- plotting points on an x-y graph (including labeling axes) using a simple algorithm;
- generating a plot of data points from a table of data; and
- recognize instances in which an x-y plot is appropriate.
Why is it hard for students?Most students will not struggle with this concept, this is merely an important review for them. However, the students who do have difficulty with graphing may struggle struggle because:
- they are math phobic or avoid math and numbers at all cost. When faced with a table of numbers, these students freeze up or shut down.
- They do not understand the reason for plotting data and have never experienced the need for visualization of a lot of numbers.
- Often in math classes students are asked to generate points from a function in order to determine what a graph of that function looks like; plotting points from data (which rarely is a perfect function!) may be newer for them than we realize.
What did we leave out of this page?
Instructor resourcesLee Marek at University of Illinois Chicago has a graphing rules page with information for students about how to graph a data set.
Mathworld has a complex definition of graph with links to multiple types of graphs.The Center for Support of Teaching and Learning at Syracuse University has two tutorials for students that covers the visual display of information on graphs.
There are also several activities and exercises available on the Teach the Earth part of SERC.
- SERC's Starting Point. Each of these activities is downloadable and ready to use.
- ConcepTests that can be used to break up lecture in a large classroom. Each of these ConcepTests involves the interpretation of graphs appropriate to introductory level geoscience.