Living vicariously through my student teacher, Lauren, we came upon the “Interpreting Graphs” lesson in Algebra, and I suggested that she give graphingstories.com a go.

Today, each class period had a brief discussion about the general usefulness of graphs, and how commonplace they are in the media. Students shared some examples they’d seen recently. We all agreed that this topic had value beyond the classroom walls. Lauren presented some background and examples, as well as some graphing lingo that matched various parts of a sample graph. This provided students with a “phrase bank” of descriptors like “increases rapidly” or “remains constant” as well as samples of both continuous and discrete graphs.

*Side Note: I usually use this graph, but forgot to mention it to Lauren today. This is the brain’s natural tendency. This graph motivates me as a teacher BIG TIME. When I do my lesson planning, I see this graph in my mind’s eye, and try to plan activities that keep students’ brains from the dreaded mid-lesson dip (not always successfully, I’m afraid).*

Next, students zapped this QR-code, which took them to this website Lauren found. Surprisingly, it was iPad-friendly! Sweet!

Using the tasks on the website, students had several opportunities to practice describing and sketching graphs for various scenarios. Students presented their work to the class, and those who were extra proud of their graphs took screenshots and e-mailed them to me.

Enter graphingstories.com. We saved the Graphing Stories PDF template in eBackPack for students to retrieve virtually and annotate using DocAS on their iPads. Lauren displayed the graphingstories.com website on the big screen at the front of the class.

Which video do * you* think middle school students wanted to watch first, based only on a quick glance at the title screen? You guessed it – Bum Height.

Students found this task more challenging than both Lauren and I had anticipated. Even though the seconds passing were noted on the screen, many students missed the idea that the graph started at time = 0, and that the little girl didn’t slide down right away. Likewise, since the bum height was at its maximum height at time = 0, this threw students off; some expected to start their graphs at the origin rather than analyzing what each axis meant in this scenario. Very interesting stuff. Discussions ensued and we moved on to the next video.

The choice for video 2 was Distance From Camera. While the general shape of students’ graphs was consistent, an interesting theme was that the “waves” touched down to the x-axis on the majority of students’ graphs. We talked about how the video might look if it modeled a graph that touched the x-axis after every spin – not ideal for the cameraman.

The last video we tried today was Ponies in Frame. First of all, these 8th graders had to understand what the “frame” part meant – I’m not sure if they were looking for a literal picture frame or what… once we got that part straightened out, I heard the most awesome muttering as soon as the video began… “Oh! I get it… this one’s discrete…” We ran out of time and didn’t have the opportunity to follow-up on these videos in a manner we would have liked, but it was worth the visit to graphingstories.com today.

Just keeping it real… it wasn’t all lollipops and rainbows… a comment laced with negativity that resonated with Lauren and me was an outburst that “graphing used to be so easy, and this just made it hard.” How would YOU take a comment like that? What does that comment say about the student’s true level of understanding? Another piece of feedback was that the y-axis was shown in each video too quickly for students to label it on their own graphs prior to the video starting. We simply pressed pause every time to take care of this.

Thanks for the feedback here, Cathy. Always useful to see how people use the site.

Thanks, Dan! Enjoyed using the site – will use again!

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Thank for this timely site, and to Dan Meyer for blogging about it. I am thrilled to use it next week with our lessons. (almost as thrilled was I to find the lap top carts available for all of our 8th math teachers)! I had a similar idea I wanted to make videos for our students, but these are already done, and a great job to those who created them.

Thanks for the hard work in putting it together.

I am using this today! This is a very good site. Thanks for the post.

Rainbows are nice. Lollipops are way overrated.

Derek Mueller of Veritasium and Daniel Kahneman (

Thinking Fast and Slow) build persuasive cases that we don’t really learn much when things seem easy. Thethis just made graphing hardcomments points to an opportunity you are creating for meaningful learning.I almost “spammed” this comment – glad I read it again, ha!

Thanks for stopping by, Christopher – agree wholeheartedly about the meaningful learning comment… and the lollipop comment.

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Love this! Gave me some great ideas for our grade 8 physics unit on motion. One of the concepts they have to understand is how to graph position and time. While none of the examples use the term position, there’s some good ones I can pick out. A great idea for after they used the videos would be to have the kids create their own videos and explain the graphs that go with them and why the graph matches the story.

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