## What do students find difficult about tables and graphs?

Students experience a number of common difficulties when constructing tables, interpreting tables, drawing graphs and interpreting graphs. An understanding of these difficulties will help you when using tables and graphs in your teaching.

**Constructing tables**

Many students are reluctant to tabulate data, preferring lengthy repetitive text which is occasionally punctuated by the quantities they want to report. Units also pose a problem and it is not uncommon to see mixed units in the same column.

**Interpreting tables**

Students find the following skills difficult when interpreting tables:

- drawing any conclusions from tables especially when there is a large data set;
- translating the data in to a verbal description or written statement; and
- answering or asking questions when the data is hidden in a table of data.

**Drawing graphs**

In order to draw the perfect graph, students need to remember a number of points. They can find the following things difficult:

- choosing the right scale and origin;
- labelling axes;
- plotting the actual points;
- units; and
- drawing a smooth curve of best fit.

**Interpreting graphs**

The skill of interpreting a graph correctly develops with practice. The following difficulties are common to many students:

- looking at the graph as a picture rather than a set of individual data points;
- translating the data from the graph into a verbal description or written statement;
- using the graph to ask and answer questions;
- interpreting small sections of the graph; and
- reading the scales correctly, especially when there is more than one graph on the same set of axes.