Graph Type Matrix Resources
Looking for a way to help your students better understand how to choose an appropriate graph type to use with their data and/or to understand why others chose their graph type they do?
Try using the Graph Type Matrix Resource or the “Creating Graph Type Matrix” activity!
The graph types included below were selected based on what is specifically discussed or referenced with the K12 standards (i.e., Common Core Math, Next Generation Science Standards, New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Social Studies) and/or are commonly used visuals in print and online news media sources (e.g., The New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, CNN).
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
(BEGINNER AT WORKING WITH DATA VISUALIZATIONS)
There are 4 graph types that elementary school students should learn to view, work with, and create:

Bar/Column Charts

Dot Plot/Line Plot (1 axis)

Pictograph

Pie Chart
As a note, this does not mean that students in elementary school cannot work with other graph types, but rather these are the ones that they should be working with repeatedly and mastering in Elementary School.
“Creating ES Graph Type Matrix” activity materials: This file includes the Graph Type cards, empty Key worksheet, and completed Graph Type Matrix Resource (summarizes these graph types by question type and descriptive words we use to describe these kinds of data).
MIDDLE SCHOOL
(ADVANCED BEGINNER WORK WITH DATA VISUALIZATIONS)
There are 7 graph types that middle school students should learn to view, work with, and create (4 new and 3 repeated graph types from elementary school):

Bar/Column Charts (repeat)

Box Plot

Dot Plot/Line Plot (1 axis) (repeat)

Histogram

Line Chart/Graph (2 axes)

Pie Chart (repeat)

Scatter Chart/Plot
As a note, this does not mean that students in middle school cannot work with other graph types, but rather these are the ones that they should be working with repeatedly and mastering in Middle School.
“Creating MS Graph Type Matrix” activity materials: This file includes the Graph Type cards, empty Key worksheet, and completed Graph Type Matrix Resource (summarizes these graph types by question type and descriptive words we use to describe these kinds of data).
HIGH SCHOOL
(INTERMEDIATE WORK WITH DATA VISUALIZATIONS)
There are 8 graph types that high school students should learn to view, work with, and create (2 new and 6 repeated graph types from elementary and middle school):

Bar/Column Charts (repeat)

Box Plot (repeat)

Bubble Chart

Histogram (repeat)

Line Chart/Graph (2 axes) (repeat)

Pie Chart (repeat)

Scatter Chart/Plot (repeat)

Stacked Area Chart
As a note, this does not mean that students in high school cannot work with other graph types, but rather these are the ones that they should be working with repeatedly and mastering in High School.
“Creating HS Graph Type Matrix” activity materials: This file includes the Graph Type cards, empty Key worksheet, and completed Graph Type Matrix Resource (summarizes these graph types by question type and descriptive words we use to describe these kinds of data).
ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL / COLLEGE
(ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE WORK WITH DATA VISUALIZATIONS)
There are 11 graph types that upper high school and undergraduate students should learn to view, work with, and create (3 new and 8 repeated graph types from elementary and middle school):

Bar/Column Charts (repeat)

Box Plot (repeat)

Bubble Chart (repeat)

Choropleth Map

Histogram (repeat)

Line Chart/Graph (2 axes) (repeat)

Pie Chart (repeat)

Scatter Chart/Plot (repeat)

Stacked Area Chart (repeat)

Stretched Bar Chart

Symbol Map
As a note, this does not mean that students in upper high school / undergraduate cannot work with other graph types (or that these graph types cannot be introduced earlier), but rather these are the ones that they should be working with repeatedly and mastering in upper High School and in College.
“Creating Upper HS/UG Graph Type Matrix” activity materials: This file includes the Graph Type cards, empty Key worksheet, and completed Graph Type Matrix Resource (summarizes these graph types by question type and descriptive words we use to describe these kinds of data).
“Creating Graph Type Matrix” activity
PREPARING TO RUN THE ACTIVITY:

Download the “Creating Graph Type Matrix” activity slide deck and documents (materials linked below by grade bands).

Make a set of the activity for each small/partner group within your class.

A copy of the Graph Type cards, cut into individual cards.

A copy of the Key worksheet


Print a copy of the Graph Type Matrix Resource to share with each student AFTER the activity.
FACILITATING THE ACTIVITY:

Review the Graph Types with your students ahead of time.
As a note, depending on your students prior knowledge, you will need to determine how much to review the graph types ahead of time but be mindful that this is designed to be less of a test of their knowledge of how to make different graph types and more of an experience to build their skills and understandings of why to use different graph types.

Challenge each small/partner group to complete their Keys by putting the Graph Type cards in each of the open boxes on their Key worksheet.
As a note, there are fewer graph types than open spots on the Key worksheet as some graph types can be used for Comparison and Distribution questions.

Once everyone has attempted to complete their Keys, have them share their Keys and explain their reasoning with another small/partner group. Make sure each group is able to share their reasoning.
As a note, depending on your focus on the activity, you can ask the students to come to a consensus together where each graph type should go within the open spots or let them maintain their original decisions.

After a few minutes, project the empty Key worksheet on your smartboard or screen and have different small/partner groups make suggestions for each open spot. Encourage the students to share their explanation and reasoning behind their placement of each graph type within the Key. Use pg. 3 as an answer key to double check your students responses.

After the class has created a shared version of the Key worksheet, share with them the graph types aligned with the kinds of questions and description words as a printed (and/or electronic) resource that they can use going forward.
If you are interested in more information about when to use different graph types, check out the January 2019 Data Literacy 101: Which is the Best Graph to Use? article in Science Scope (42(5): 2631). Also, explore the suggested resources that others have developed regarding Graph Choice.