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5.5.2 Representing and Interpreting Data

Math Content:

Students use the graphing functions of a spreadsheet to help them interpret data.


  • Click on a cell to edit or add new data.
  • Use the buttons on the left to sort the data by different categories.
  • Use the Calculate button to update the mean, maximum, and minimum.
  • Use the Clear button to clear contents and Reset to return the original values.


  • Values from the spreadsheet are plotted on the scatterplot.
  • Use the buttons under "y-values" and "x-values" to select the categories to be plotted.
  • Moving the cursor to data points will return the corresponding x- and y-values for that point.

Bar Graph 

  • Values from the spreadsheet are plotted on the bar graph.
  • Use the up and down arrows to increase and decrease the number of bars.
  • Clicking on the bars will return the percent of data points in that bar.
  • Moving the cursor along the x-axis will return the value of the division points between bars.


Most spreadsheets have graphing functions that create graphs to facilitate comparing columns of data. Use the graphing function of the spreadsheet below to graph the daily temperatures by date to see the pattern of the temperatures during the month. Next, graph the temperatures after they have been sorted from lowest to highest in the spreadsheet. In this way, students can get a different view of the data, showing the range and distribution of the temperatures for January. Make a bar graph to display the sky conditions during the time documented in the spreadsheet. 


Students in grades 3–5 should continue to develop the habit of representing problems and ideas in many ways to support and extend their reasoning. Spreadsheets offer a wide range of options for representing data. Working with spreadsheets, students must make decisions about the data they select, the type of graph that is appropriate for both the data and the question they want to answer, and the best settings for the different parameters that control the aspects of the graph. When making these choices, students have the opportunity to learn about the advantages and limitations of the different representations they try.

Take Time to Reflect

  • In what other activities can spreadsheets be used as tools for organizing, representing, and comparing data?
  • How can spreadsheet activities offer opportunities for students to demonstrate their reasoning?
  • How can teachers assess students' understanding as they observe them working on spreadsheet activities?