Sometimes we get to teach things in 8th grade math that don’t have a lot of calculations and that have very real applications. That happens to be the case with scatter plot graphs and I love to teach it. Also, students learn a lot about slope and y-intercept and now they get to put it together with real world things. The downside is that we don’t get very many days in our schedule to teach it, so I try to pack a lot of fun and engagement into a few days. Today I’m excited to share with you 11 great activity ideas and resources to use when teaching and practicing with scatter plot graphs.
The main things that we focus on understanding are which two variables are represented, what type of correlation is there, when given an input what is an expected output, and the line of best fit. The activities in this post will get your students hands-on working with these concepts. These activities will also get students talking with partners and experiencing scatter plots.
The list of activities for practicing scatter plot graphs:
Let’s dive in
Sometimes it can be intimidating to just look up activities online and you aren’t sure if they will work. That’s why I’ve written some of my experiences and thoughts with each of these activities. I’ll break down exactly explain how each activity works and how it might fit into your class. I’m confident you’ll find some that will fit exactly what you’re looking for.
Adding a little technology and novelty to an otherwise routine activity can go a long way with students. That’s where QR code games come it. In this scatter plot graphs game students answer question and check their answers through a QR code reader. Then, if they get it right, they check how many points they got with the other QR code. This gives out points randomly and doesn’t just reward the fastest students. My students love this element of chance- they never know how much a problem is “worth”. They also love using the tablet, Chromebook or their phones to read the QR codes. I’ve never really seen anyone not working during this activity.
This particular set of cards gives students a chance to see a variety of scatter plot graphs. Also, they get to answer different types of questions about scatter plots. One of the questions is about what one particular point of data represents. Another one asks students to draw a conclusion. When you walk around the room during this activity, you really get to see students’ understanding of the concept. Some of them like to have short answers for everything and for some of the questions their answers need to be more fleshed out. So, this activity definitely pushes some students!
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Students love to use dry-erase markers, and I love SmartPals (dry erase sleeves) because I can quickly check for understanding for the whole class. This graphic organizer is something that we used to practice drawing a line of best fit and then writing a linear equation to represent it. It had been a couple of weeks since we really had worked with linear equations, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they remembered it. The line of best fit practice was fun and I loved to hear them say things like, “Hey, this is going to be negative slope,” or, “This slope has to be less than one.” My teacher heart was doing back flips! Download this free graphic organizer here.
You can give students points and have them plot them on the graph (as seen above), or you can have them copy a set of points (check out the pic below). Once they have their points, students draw a line of best fit. Last, each person makes a linear equation that matches the line of best fit. When reviewing answers, it’s a great time to talk about why we have slightly different answers.
Who doesn’t love to add chocolate into math class? I use this M & Ms scatter plot activity from Math Equals Love as an anticipatory set to reinforce positive, negative and no correlation. Each student gets a graph and a fun size pack of M&Ms. Then, I give them tasks to complete like:
- Make a graph with a positive correlation.
- Create a graph with no association.
- Make a graph that increases and then decreases.
- Show an example of an outlier.
- Show an example of a negative relationship.
I try to use a variety of terminology like correlation, relationship, and association because I’ve noticed that they might see any of those terms to mean the same thing. They need to be comfortable with all the words people use to describe a scatter plot graph. This activity definitely gets students talking and will be something that they’re likely to remember.
The other day when we were doing this gallery walk activity, I was a little nervous because they were having a district meeting in the room next to mine. I was worried that my classes would talk too much because they were working in partners. Turns out I didn’t need to stress- while students definitely talked to their partners, they stayed right on task and the sound level never got very high.
In this gallery walk students go around the room to posted scatter plots and answer 4 questions for each graph. They have to identify the variables. Next, they write the question that someone was trying to answer when they collected the data. Also, they identify any correlation and draw a conclusion. I have them check their first couple of answers with me. I’m a bit of a stickler because some of them don’t pay attention to the details. For example, some students don’t write a question when they are clearly asked to do that. I find that if I make sure they do the first couple well, then that passes over to the others. Also, I do a lot of modeling up front to make sure that I’ll get the quality answers I expect.
This online tool from Illuminations is a fun way to play around with finding a line of best fit. You should totally play around with it and see how you do- it’s a trip. I thought that I was pretty good at identifying the linear question and the line of best fit, but this tool put me in my place! It’s great tool to teach not only math, but to reinforce growth mindset and learning from errors because it’s very picky. Students love to try it out and get just as mad at it as me. It’s really cool because they’re justifying their answers and a lot of great math talk ensues. This is great to use for an anticipatory set or closure.
It amazes me how many different activities you can do with task cards. You can play a game like scoot where students move from desk to desk answering each task card. Also, students can work on them with partners. In addition, you can have task cards on hand to use for quick checks for understanding. That’s exactly what I did with this set of task cards. We used the QR code game for our usual task card activity, so instead these task cards became exit tickets on the screen (I can’t imagine teaching without my doc camera!).
These task cards work themselves up from easy to more complex. They’re in groups of 4 similar questions or tasks. The first four cards are vocabulary practice and the next four get kids to identify what the scatter plot represents.
Sometimes students just need a quick, fun reinforcement of a skill. This online game gives them 10 questions about correlation on a scatter plot graph. The game asks students to look for trends. They have to identify if the trend is positive, negative, or if there’s no trend. I use this as an anticipatory set which gives each of the students a chance to review finding correlation and trends.
I like this idea of making life size scatterplots, but I haven’t done with this my class yet. This year I ran out of time, and I also got sick which always puts a little damper on plans. The idea with this activity is that you create a graph on the wall and each student places their own data. In the example they use shoe size and height. I love that the data is real and that students can draw conclusions about it.
When I do this with my students we will probably do a few different graphs, so we can see different types of correlations. Some other graphs you could create are age and hand size, or hours of tv watched per week and hours of sleep per week. Also, you could have students come up with the topics. I’m sure they would come up with some fun ideas.
Scatter Plots Doodle Notes
I love doodle notes and the science behind them. The teacher-author who I have come across who is the queen of math doodle notes is Math Giraffe. She explains all about doodle notes why you should use them in class.
This set of doodle notes worked great as an anticipatory set. I copied it two to a page and when students were done we glued it into their interactive notebook. They worked through what it asked it them to do. Many of them had a hard time seeing what they needed to complete, so I helped them. There are 3 questions at the bottom that really got them thinking.
Illuminations has a couple of very well done activities where students have to create a scatter plot graph from data. After students create the scatter plot, then they have to answers some questions about it. What’s really cool to me about this activity is that the examples are real world. One of the activities deals with oil changes and the other one deals with bike weights and jumps. Also, they incorporate the line of best fit tool into the activity.
This game from XP Math is a really fun way to practice placing a line of best fit. It has 11 levels and gives students a lot of practice. They really like the characters from Naruto. Students play by trying to collect as many items as they can along the path. This game works as a fast finisher center or as a homework assignment and they will have fun talking about how well they are doing. Also, it reinforces the idea of positive, negative, and no correlation.
Try one thing
You can’t always do everything. That’s a lesson that I learn every time I plan a unit. I want my students to have so many meaningful repetitions with the concept, but then time comes along and thwarts my best laid plans. One thing that I’ve adopted is to try one new thing. This year for this unit it was the line of best fit tool. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be able to do the life sized scatter plot. Just let’s get out there and try one thing.
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