Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teaching Histograms - Histogram Buckets!

I feel like most statistics teacher have the problem of getting kids to understand histograms. Yes. They kids can tell you that histograms are for quantitative data and the bars touch, yadda yadda yadda. That's not the problem. The problem is getting kids to really conceptually understand histograms, rather than thinking they are some sort of glorified bar graph.

I set out to fix this little histogram problem this year, so I came up with the idea of histogram buckets. First, I came up with a data set and printed the numbers on magnetic printer sheets. Each number is a block.  I cut them out individually.

When the students came in the door, I gave them each a square. When prompted, the students brought their magnetic blocks and placed them in the appropriate pre-labeled bins.

From the bins, I then took the magnetic squares and placed them on the whiteboard behind them. I used electrical tape to make the axes.

Then, we discussed what would happen if we changed the bin widths. So, we did... from 5 to 10. I handed the magnetic blocks back and changed the widths on the bins.

Students, again, placed their blocks into the appropriate bin. The histogram looked like this:

This helped to easily discuss that the histogram was representing the exact same data, but that, when we changed the bin widths, the displays looked different. This activity helped us to really have great discussions on what appropriate bin sizing is and is not.

I also had an INB handout for kids to fill out while we completed this activity. Here's what it looks like:

 I'm linking my histogram blocks and the handout files below.



  1. Brilliant! I was surprised by how much my kiddos struggled with histograms this year.

    1. Yay! Happy you found it helpful. When I reread this, I realized I used the words "magnetic" and "blocks" a million times. Lesson learned; don't blog after midnight. #embarrassing