Activity Overview: 

This lesson is part of a graphing unit that meets the required standard for the third grade. The students count the number of M&Ms of each color in a bag and use those numbers as data. The students work independently to collect data, create a graph, join their data with a partner’s, create a graph cooperatively, interpret the data to make a prediction, input the data into a spreadsheet, and create a graph using the computer.

Collecting, representing, and interpreting data using spreadsheets and graphing software: The learner will design and interpret a graph.

This lesson is part of a graphing unit that meets the required standard for the third grade. It requires the learner to work independently to collect data, create a graph, join their data with a partner's, create a graph cooperatively, interpret the data to make a prediction, input the data into a spreadsheet, and create a graph using the computer.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used)

In preparation for this lesson, M & Ms must be available for each student. A simple graph sheet must be created and supplied for each student. Students have been previously introduced to a spreadsheet, its uses, and how to create one. A sheet of directions for the creation of a spreadsheet will be supplied for each pair of students. 

The students have been introduced to graphing using their textbook. They have the prior knowledge that graphs are diagrams that represent quantities or shows relationships between quantities. They are familiar with the different types of graphs.

Procedures: Curriculum Standards National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance
To begin the lesson, the different types of graphs and their purposes will be reviewed.  The students have previously made real graphs using different physical attributes and clothing items. The example of physical clothing (the types of shoes worn by third graders) will be discussed and questioned as to whether this is typical of all third grade students across the nation. Students' eye colors were used as the attribute to make a graph. Generalizations will be made and discussed. Mathematics: 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

English Language Arts: 11, 12


To reinforce the ideas of sorting, counting, and predicting, a small sampling of rocks from a previously purchased box will be used for graphing. Results are graphed on the overhead projector. This ties in minimally with a rock and mineral science unit. Conclusions will be that there is no way to predict how many colors of one rock will be in the packet. Mathematics: 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10  
The students will then be handed the graph sheets and given instructions to count, and complete the graph sheet. A five minute approximate time limit is given to complete this task. Mathematics: 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10   
The students will then predict whether other bags will have the same amount of colors. Mathematics: 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10  
The students are then assigned partners to compare, combine, interpret their data, and then make a prediction about all other bags of M & Ms. They must agree upon their prediction and must adhere to correct grammatical structure when writing the sentence. Mathematics: 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

English Language Arts: 4, 7, 11, 12

Grades 3-5: 1, 4, 8, 9
The students will then go to the computer lab to work with their partners to create their spreadsheets using the information they have obtained. They follow the directions for creating a spreadsheet and then create appropriate graphs to represent their information, save their documents, have them checked, and print the documents.   Grades 3-5: 1, 5, 6, 8 
Students will share/compare their information and graphs with other groups in the class.    


TV/Computer S-Video Connection
Computers: iMac. Apple Corp. Available:
Overhead Projector 

AppleWorks 6.0 or ClarisWorks 5.0. Apple Corp. Available:

Aims, Education Foundation. (1987). Fall into Math and Science, Graphing. Aims Education Foundation: Fresno. 

Math Central. (1999). Houghton Mifflin: Boston.

Phillips, H. (1997). Graphing, 35 Hands-On Activities. Creative Teaching Press: Cypress.

Student learning is assessed by their ability to:

  1. Work collaboratively
  2. Participate in class discussion
  3. Complete spreadsheet and graph

Kathleen Alexander, Riverside Elementary School, Grand Rapids, Michigan

The first day of this lesson, the students predict how many M & Ms they will have of each color in their individual packs. They then sort by color and count them. We transfer that data to paper and create a bar graph. After studying their bar graphs, the students are given a partner with whom they discuss their results, combine their information, decide what assumptions can be made from their data, and whether or not it will be comparable to the rest of the class. Each team then makes a prediction of how many M & Ms should be in each packet in the entire class. They write a sentence to represent what they think. The class then discusses that information.

I have taught this lesson several times before with fifth-graders. This is my second time with third grade students. Both groups enjoy the activity, work cooperatively, and are able to present the basic information in the way described. The fifth grade students were able to use fractions and percentages when representing this data. The fifth grade students are also able to use more advanced computer skills. With the fifth grade students, we created the basic spreadsheets. They also learned the skills of adjusting the spreadsheets by inserting cells, deleting cells, changing the size of columns and rows, adding headers, footers, and numbering pages, and changing fonts. Third grade students can use the basic information, are more active, and need more assistance in assessing and evaluating the data, and following directions.

Technology Resources:
I chose these particular technology resources because they are what are available in our computer lab. AppleWorks is an ideal application for my students. They become familiar with the computer lab from kindergarten. By third grade they are prepared to branch out to use the applications in different ways. There are more expensive versions of integrated software such as this on the market. I chose AppleWorks because of its availability and the students were familiar with the previous versions of ClarisWorks. We do have MS Office in our lab, but I chose to use what they are familiar with at the moment. The skills learned can be carried over to other spreadsheet applications.

School Background Information:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan is home to approximately 197,800 people. Grand Rapids holds a bounty of attractions for residents, businesses and visitors. The downtown is vibrant with museums, restaurants, entertainment, and cultural destinations. Distinct architectural and decorative characteristics help to define our neighborhoods. Across the City, diverse communities have highlighted their special personalities with festivals, banners, and signs. Diverse economic base promotes one of the most favorable business climates in the U.S. 
  • Approximately 250 students are enrolled in Riverside Elementary School. In terms of ethnicity, 70% of the students are White, 27% are African American, 2% are Hispanic, and 1% are American Indian. 

Teaching Strategy:
This strategy was chosen, because it actively involves the students. They can use prior knowledge, brainstorming, predicting skills, collaborative learning, and communication skills. They are also able to incorporate their basic computer skills into the math content area. 

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Principles of Learning:
Active Involvement:
The activity presented in this lesson involved the students in the physical action of counting. They are engaged in manipulation of objects and creating a graph with pen and paper as well as involved in the creation of the graph on the computer.

Patterns and Connections:
Review of previous knowledge helps students to make connections. The use of rocks in the modeled graph creates a connection with their study of rocks and minerals in science. 

Direct Experience:
The students manipulate the objects, enter the data in the classroom and into the spreadsheet program, and create their graphs.

Enjoyable Setting:
When the students are working in groups, they interact in a generally positive manner toward each other. 

Students were encouraged to think about their generalizations when interpreting information from review work. 

Frequent Feedback:
The teachers and the students give Frequent Feedback. There are suggestions, guiding questions, and positive comments made by the teachers to the students and the students to each other. 

Information Processing:
The encouraging of prior knowledge and relating it to the present activity 

The students made inferences (guesstimates), drew conclusions, rethought their decisions, and discussed the validity of their generalizations.

Students determined if their chosen graphs best represented the information given. Some students chose to use other tools for expression.

After students organized their data and created their graph, they had the opportunity to experiment and reflect on which of the graphs represented their information most effectively. When choosing and completing the computer-generated graph, the students interacted verbally with their partners. They then communicated their joint decision to the class.

Content Standards:
Sorting, counting, recording, creating graphs, analyzing, and interpreting the data are all math skills incorporated into this lesson.

Language Arts: 
The students communicated with each other and with the teachers. They read and comprehended information from their graphs. They used basic writing skills when they wrote a correct sentence, communicating their joint predictions.

Tenets of Democracy:
Individual Responsibility & Civil Involvement with Others: 
There are examples of students fully involved in participating in the activity, which encourages them to demonstrate cooperative learning and patience.

In most cases, the students were able to work together and listen to their partners' ideas. 

Power Sharing and Empowerment:
The students as a whole were able to engage in productive communication and participate equally with their partners. An example of Power Sharing occurred when three students were working together. They moved from chair to chair in order to assure equal turns entering the data. Other teams divided tasks in order to complete the assignment.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making: 
The students communicated together when sharing their individual information and used that as a basis for coming up with a final sentence to explain their thoughts and predictions.

Teacher Knowledge: 
Knowledge of Student Characteristics:
Students used hands-on learning, which is appropriate for this age group. Active involvement is fundamental to students and was evident in this activity.

Teacher Behavior:
Classroom Management:
Pairing of students created an atmosphere more conducive to cooperative learning than a larger group setting. All staff members were aware of the students' behaviors. Interventions and opportunities were given for students to assist in their own behavior management.

Student Characteristics:
There are thirty-two students in this third grade class. Many of my students are at risk and need the hands-on activities. They sit individually because many of them have difficulty staying on task. When we do partner work, they are usually able to move quickly and efficiently to another place to complete the assignments. I chose to work in pairs, since they usually do not work well in groups of three or more.

I am assisted an hour a day by another teacher. This allows for team style teaching. With her assistance these types of activities are quite successful with the students, as it allows them more frequent feedback and a bit more individual attention. She also gets to know the students and can guide them in solving problems if they cannot come to an agreement.

The students are exposed to computers from kindergarten. I build on their previous skills when they come to my class. Third graders use the computer lab three times a week. Two of those times, the lab assistant is in there with us. The students are familiar with the lab assistant and she is familiar with them. This relationship and her knowledge of my expectations help us to achieve more in the small amount of time allotted to us.

Evolution of the Activity:
There has not been an extensive amount of changes in this activity. I have deleted some of the more advanced formatting changes in the creation of the spreadsheet and graphs that I used with the fifth grade students.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum Technology