MathBench > Visualization

A Graphing Primer

How to scale axes

The preceding steps -- choosing x and y, labeling, deciding on min and max values, and deciding on tick distance -- are steps you need to do for any graph you make, whether you use a computer or sketch the graph by hand. (Often a computer program will do these steps for you, but often the program will get them wrong, too).

If you are drawing a graph on paper, there is just one more complication. The graph paper has predetermined lines, and you need to make your graph fit on the page or half-page or whatever. You don't want an effect like the graph on the left!

graph with no units correct graph


I'm sure there's a formula for doing this, somewhere. But you can also manage by trial and error. On the graph above, let's say you need to approximately fill up a space which has 40 lines for the x-axis.

If you make each line 10 cm, you'll only use up 15 lines -- too few

If you make each line 2 cm, you'll need 75 lines -- too many (This is starting to sound like a nursery story...)

If you make each line 5 cm, you'll need 30 lines -- just right (or at least right enough).