Representing Data in Tables, Bar Graphs, and Pictographs

Contributor: Marlene Vogel. Lesson ID: 10101

If you're comparing scores for several teams or something really important, like how many of each color of M&Ms is in your bowl, you should use graphs! Learn how to chart your graph course today!


Measurement and Data

learning style
personality style
Lion, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


You want to compare the number of LEGOS® you own with the number of LEGOS® your friend owns. However, you want to compare them according to their colors.

  • Instead of just writing numbers down on a piece of paper, what is a nicer, more helpful way you can represent the information?

Take a look at the Favorite Gifts Bar Graph found in the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

  • What do you think the Favorite Gifts Bar Graph is representing?

Before you begin the lesson, you should define some vocabulary words. Go to to find the definitions of the words in the list below:

  • data
  • visually
  • table
  • bar graph
  • pictograph
  • X-axis
  • Y-axis
  • vertical
  • horizontal
  • key

Large amounts of information can be represented in tables and graphs.

Today, you will create both a bar graph and a pictograph. The information you need to create each graph is below:


We use bar graphs to represent data or information visually. They are a great way to communicate information to others without speaking. When creating a bar graph, you represent the data in columns or bars.

  1. Make sure you have a pencil, a piece of graph paper, a ruler, and colored pencils or crayons at your learning area so you can begin.
  1. On your graph paper, draw a graph that resembles the following picture:

empty graph

  1. Using your ruler, draw a horizontal line going from left to right.
  1. Draw an arrow on the right end.
  1. Line your ruler up at the left end of that line and draw a vertical line, going up.
  1. Put an arrow at the top of that line.
  1. Make sure you label the different parts of the graph as you see in the picture. The horizontal line (left to right) is the x-axis and has the instruments named under it (Guitar, Trumpet, Drum, Saxophone, and Piano). Under those words is the title, "Musical instruments."
  1. Alongside the vertical line, or y-axis, (up and down) are numbers 0 to 900. Make sure you list those numbers exactly as you see them. Alongside the numbers is the title "Numbers of instruments."
  1. At the top of the graph is the graph title, "Sales of Musical Instruments."
  1. Once you have finished drawing the graph, you are ready to enter the data in the form of bars. Below is the information:

instrument data

According to the data, the company has sold 630 Guitars, 720 Trumpets, 405 Drums, 540 Saxophones, and 405 Pianos. It is your job to represent those numbers on your graph!

  1. Using a red colored pencil or crayon, draw a red line across the Guitar column where the number 630 is. Follow the example below:

start instrument graph

  1. Use the same colored pencil or crayon and color in the rest of that column down to the x-axis. You have graphed the data! Great job!
  1. Do the same with the rest of the data from the picture with the sales amounts for each instrument. USE A DIFFERENT COLOR FOR EACH INSTRUMENT.
  1. If you come to a number that you do NOT see on the graph, then you will need to estimate where the number falls (in between which 2 numbers).

Your graph should look like the example below:

instrument graph


A pictograph is very similar to a bar graph. One difference is that you use pictures to display the data instead of just colors.

The following activity will help you learn how to create a pictograph to help you communicate data:

In keeping with our Music theme, we are going to practice how to represent data from a survey about favorite kinds of music.

  1. You can use a blank sheet of regular paper or graph paper to draw a chart that looks like the following:

empty chart

  1. Make sure your chart looks exactly like the one in the picture above. Across the top is the title of the chart, "Music Survey."
  1. Make two columns. One column has the title, "Type of Music" and the different types listed underneath it (Rock, Pop, Classic, Country, and Jazz). The other column has the title, "Number of People."

The rows in that column are blank. That is where we are going to draw our pictures to represent our data.

Here is our data:

music data

  1. Before we start to graph the data in our Pictograph, we need to make a decision.

As you can see, our data is in the thousands. There is no way we could possibly draw 3,750 pictures in the Rock row in the Number of People column to represent all the people who like Rock music the most.

We have to decide what type of picture we want to use to represent ALL of the data, and how many people just one of those pictures represents.

Here is a possibility: A simple (-_-) can be used in each row to represent the data for each type of music. One decision made!

Now, how many people will one (-_-) represent?

Definitely not one person! Let's say that one (-_-) = 500 people. That way, we do not have to draw too many to represent our data!

  1. Let's recheck and make sure we have everything we need. We have drawn our graph, we have the data we need to graph, and we have decided what picture we are going to use to represent 500 people. Now, let's graph!
  1. Remember, each (-_-) represents 500 people, so how many (-_-) will it take to represent the number of people who like Rock music?

Put your multiplication skills to good use. If you did your multiplication correctly, you figured out that 7 (-_-) equals 3,500 people. However, we need to represent 3,750 people.

Any ideas how to represent those last 250 people? Exactly! Only draw 1/2 of a (-_-). Now your graph should look like this:

music chart start

  1. Finish putting the rest of the data into the graph. Your completed graph should look like the following:

complete music chart

music chart key

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