Will a Good Graphing App for Kids Please Stand Up?

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Our math curriculum emphasizes data collection, graphing and data analysis as part of the curriculum. These projects are my favorite part of our math class because they allow the students to see math in action and use calculation skills such addition, multiplication, division in the context of real-world applications of math. In other words, how do we use math to learn more about our world? Students collect data about everything from how many minutes they read a week to scientific investigations testing variables in experiments with how high a ball will bounce.

The most challenging aspect of these projects besides the data collection itself is the physical act of graphing. Fourth and Fifth grade students are still developing precision in their handwriting and drawing. Making graphs that are neat, readable and accurate is difficult for them, not because they don’t understand the concepts behind graphing, but because their little hands are not precise enough to put it on paper.

For this reason, I was looking for an application students could use to create simple line, bar or pie graphs. I searched for two days and…guess what? I haven’t found a single app that captures all the functions students need. I was surprised!

Many graphing programs have been developed for business and range in price from $14.99-$49.99. Since fourth and fifth graders are not necessarily familiar with excel spreadsheets, these apps are not appropriate, not to mention very expensive.

I did find three apps that ranged from awful to passable, I’ve outlined a very basic review of their pros and cons in the popplet graphic above. Easy Chart HD is very affordable at $0.99 and extremely easy to use; however, it has very few capabilities.

Features and problems with this app:

  1. You can make various types of bar, line or pie graphs.
  2. You can change colors by selecting different color themes.
  3. You can enter data in a simple two-column table interface.
  4. You can save to your camera roll or share in other ways.
  5. You can’t add labels to the X and Y axis.
  6. You can’t set the scale; it is automatically calculated according to your top value, and I found that the scale often doesn’t make logical sense.
  7. You can’t set the the shape of the points on a line graph (not too important, but a fun feature)
  8. You can’t elect to label the points or bars with the actual data value. (As you can see below, it’s actually quite difficult to figure out the value of the points themselves.)

Example:

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Another app I tried is Chart Maker Lite. Since the full version is $9.99, I thought it would be better with more functions and options. This app was so confusing that after playing with it for half an hour, I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t bother with it after that.

The last and best option I found was iGraph It. At $2.99, it’s still reasonable in price and does many things Easy Chart HD does not.

Features of this app:

  1. You can make various types of bar, line or pie graphs.
  2. You can change colors of lines and bars (just not individual bars, they all have to be the same color).
  3. You can enter data in a simple two-column table interface.
  4. You can add labels to the X and Y axis.
  5. You can set the scale and auto settings seem to make logical sense.
  6. You can set the the shape of the points on a line graph.
  7. You can elect to label the points or bars with the actual data value.

Example:

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Graph Made by My Tutoring Student, Mathias

Sounds great right? That actual interface wasn’t as user-friendly as I would like; however, it was easy enough and kids could definitely figure it out with a little time to play with it.  In the lite version you can’t save or share your graphs. I said, “Ok, fair enough,” and bought it. I created a graph and went to share it. My blood started to boil slightly when I realized that the only sharing option was EMAIL.

This is so frustrating. The steps necessary to share a graph to their Google Drive folder, to their blog or in any other medium are numerous:

  1. Email to self as a PDF or PNG
  2. If it’s a PNG, you need to go to a computer, open the email and save the file to your Google Drive or upload it to your blog. (Trying to save the PNG on the ipad to the camera roll proved unsuccessful.)
  3. If it’s a PDF, you can email it, open it on the ipad, then open it in Adobe or Google Drive, then do a screen capture on the iPad, then edit and crop the photo, THEN you can upload it to your blog or use it in another app.

What a nightmare.

I was truly disappointed that this very simple feature, Save to Camera Roll, was missing. This should be standard on all apps that create visuals.

Last night, I joined a Facebook chat hosted by TeacherswithApps, and there didn’t seem to be any known alternatives. We did chat with a developer, however, and I relayed my wish list. He is considering taking on the project. So….Maybe a decent graphing app will be along shortly.

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