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Reading Bar Graphs

When teaching students to read bar graphs, review the following features:

  • Title: The title informs you about the topic of the graph.
  • Axis labels: Bar graphs are built on vertical and horizontal axes. Axes are similar to the columns and rows used in tables. The axis labels tell you how the information changes as you move horizontally or vertically across the graph.
  • Legend.: You often see legends on maps. These legends tell you how to interpret symbols on a map. Legends are often provided on bar graphs as well: A legend (or key) explains how information is represented through symbols, colors, shading, etc.
  • Scale: One of the axes of a bar graph tells you how to determine the quantity or value that the length of a bar represents. The scale tells you how much the value increases as you move along the length of the bar. Notice what value each unit of length represents.
  • Bars: On a bar graph, you compare data by comparing the lengths of the bars. The title and axis labels tell you what the length of each bar represents.