Connecting stories to qualitative coordinate graphs has been suggested as an effective instructional strategy (Blubaugh and Emmons 1999; Maus 2005; NCTM 2000). Even students who are able to create bar graphs may struggle to correctly interpret them. Giving children opportunities to work with qualitative graphs can help them develop the skills to interpret, describe, and compare information from a graph even without the availability of numeric labels. This investigation addresses the Data Analysis and Probability Standard (NCTM 2000) and explores the value of connecting stories with qualitative bar graph instruction, which too often focuses on only counting, tallying, and creating bar graphs.

Contributor Notes

Sue McMillen,, teaches math and math education courses at Buffalo State College in New York. She also provides content-based professional development to in-service teachers.

Beth McMillen,, teaches second grade at the Samuel S. Gaines Academy in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The “investigations” department is edited by LouAnn H. Lovin,, and Ann Wallace,, who teach mathematics methods and content courses to prospective and inservice classroom teachers at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Articles highlight classroomtested multilesson units that help students develop conceptual understanding of math topics. Teachers may reproduce this material for use with their own students without requesting permission from NCTM. Submit manuscripts appropriate for “investigations” by accessing Limit manuscripts to 3000 words, excluding two reproducible pages of activities. Find detailed submission guidelines for all departments at

(Corresponding author is McMillen
(Corresponding author is McMillen
Teaching Children Mathematics
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