MathBench > Visualization

A Graphing Primer

The Case of the Confusing Axes

In this module we'll talk about how to graph data, and particularly how to set up the graph (I know you're good at putting dots on a graph once the axes are labelled and all the little tickmarks are drawn in!)

Believe it or not, every TA gets a handful of reports each semester where the graph has axes that are switched, or the graph is all squashed into one tiny corner of the paper, or nothing is labelled. Well, those reports don't have to come from you! Below you will find an easy checklist to making the perfect graph. On the following pages, we'll practice some of the skills you will need...

I'm going to quickly show you these steps on a single graph, and then as we go through each step more slowly, I'll show you the sorts of trainwrecks that occur if you ignore these steps.

lawrence welkA Sample Graph: Eyesight and TV Viewing Distance

When I was growing up, the older folks frequently rained dire predictions on our head about our viewing habits. Specifically, we sat too close to the color television, which was thought to have alien powers akin to Martians landing on the roof (nowadays I suppose parents warn their kids about cell phones ruining their hearing or IMing ruining their thumb joints -- mine was a more innocent age). Anyway, I could imagine my poor grandmother collecting the data for the graph below, hoping to prove her point and force us to sit farther from the Lawrence Welk show:

viewing distance 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 100 120 140
eyesight remaining 75 80 85 88 92 95 97 98 98 98 98