Numbers index

Using Pictogram Graphs


Handling data --- Data --- Make a pictogram --- Graphs --- Sorting --- Box-and-whisker

Make your own pictogram graph

The Pictogram graph webpage was written for Primary School children, aged 6-11, although other ages may find it useful. It is an interactive webpage. This means that you can make it do things on the screen. Click here to find out more about this.

Pictogram graphs are simple graphs. They are like bar charts except they use a number of little pictures to show how many items there are in each row. They are sometimes called pictographs, although 'pictogram' and 'pictograph' both mean a picture used as writing (such as in ancient Egyptians hieroglyphs). They were first used as graphs in the 19th century.

This webpage allows you to build up a simple pictograph on the screen. You can choose the pictures, and set the scale. You can even change the scale while keeping the same data. There are several different ways of entering the same data. This webpages is not intended for serious use. It only has a limited number of rows and columns. However, a graph can be set up very quickly. You can alter the scale without having to re-enter the data, so you can explore what effect different scales have. There is a good choice of supplied pictures and colours, which children might find fun! This means that it is suitable for introducing children to the ideas of graphs.

This webpage is similar but even simpler. While it has most of the features of the general page, all the pictures are farm animals, which you choose by clicking on pictures (rather than via a drop-down menu).

There are several ways of entering data.

If you increase a line using +, it gives you a picture each time. So clicking on + when the scale is "100" means that the value goes up to the next 100, rather than just adding 1. If you increase or decrease a number with an overflow on it, it resets the line to its maximum value (which will be less than its overflow value).

You can select different pictures and colours. There will always only be one type of picture on one line, but you can have different pictures or colours on different lines. If you don't like the picture on a line, then change the current picture and colour to one you like, and click again on the line in the right place to change the pictures.

You can the scale by altering the "Each picture is worth:" box. By doing this, you may mess up the pictograph. You could have too many pictures to fit on a line. If this happens, the value box shows the right value, there will be ten pictures, plus a little arrow to show overflow. You could have a scale which makes all lines just have one or no pictures. This is what will display, with the values, again, still containing the correct value. If you change the scale back to a better value, then the proper number of pictures will appear again. You can't have fractions of pictures, so if you choose a scale of "2", then 4 and 5 will both show 2 pictures (since it can't show 2.5 pictures to represent 5). Again, changing the scale will make the correct number of pictures to reappear.

You can change the number of columns and the number of rows in the graph. If you choose a large number for columns, the pictures will be smaller, and large numbers generally will slow the whole webpage down. Choosing a large or fractional scale with a lot of columns will also create a mess. This is only supposed to be for small graphs for beginners, so don't expect too much of it! The larger numbers are only there because any limit is always too small.

There are boxes provided to type in descriptions of each line, and a title for the whole graph. These don't do anything, but will help you see what you are doing! It will also look better if you print out the page. The easiest way of printing the graph is just to use the Print button to print out the webpage. There is a more complicated way to save or print the graph here.

Ideas for using the Pictograph webpage

First, you must find some data. Click here for some ideas.

Now let the children choose the pictures. They could choose the same picture for the whole pictograph, with different colours on each line. They could choose different pictures for each line. Should the pictures be relevant? (Is this possible?) They could, of course, use the same picture and colour throughout, but my guess is that they'll think that's boring!

The different ways of entering the data are given above. Basically, you can either work directly on the graph, and the value will appear automatically, or you can enter the value, and the webpage will draw the graph for you. Most computer graph programs work the second way, but if the children are learning about graphs, it may help them to put the pictures directly on the graph. That is what they would have to do if they were making the graph themselves. Once they understand one way of doing it, let them play with the other way. The values will become particularly important when you start changing scales.

They should type some rough description in for each line, so it makes more sense, and a title. Once the graph is complete, they should look at it, and work out what it means. Which line is longest? Why? Unfortunately for simple data, it is hard to think of questions which aren't obvious to at least some of the children. Perhaps it would be better to split the children into groups. Each one could make up their own graph and print it out. Then they could swap their graphs, and have to answer questions about someone else's graph.

Once they understand a graph with a scale of 1, change the scale to 2. They should be able to see that the graph is roughly the same "shape". They can also see that you can put in bigger numbers. After playing around with scales more than 1, try a scale less than 1.

The block picture is different from all the others, since it produces a solid block of colour rather than separate pictures. This can be used to introduce the idea of more sophisticated graphs, such as bar charts, or even line graphs.

You will probably find the limitations of this webpage fairly quickly. The children can then move onto using a spreadsheet using software like Excel, and make 'proper' graphs. Or if they wish to stay with pictographs, then they can draw their own!

Click here for another simple pictogram website (not mine).

Make your own pictogram graph