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Elementary Math: Lesson Plans & Resources8 chapters | 237 lessons

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*Mark Boster*

Circle graphs are used to compare categories. You can see what there was more or less of in just one look. You can also use circle graphs to compare parts to a whole. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Let's see how it's done.

At a large family gathering, Mary noticed that her mother was cutting different pies into six pieces each, and then putting them on small plates for the family members to take. After each person had taken what they wanted, there were six pieces left over. Mary's mother put the six pieces back into one of the pie pans. Which flavor of pie had the most pieces left over? We can answer this question using a **circle graph**, also called a pie graph.

A circle graph is a graph in the shape of a circle that shows different parts. Each part of a circle graph represents a different category. You can use a circle graph to visually compare the parts to the whole, and the parts to each other. A larger part means that the category represented by that part is more common. A smaller part means that the category represented by that part is less common. We can tell which categories are most or least common overall, and we can compare whether one category is more common than another category.

Let's use a circle graph to compare how much pie of each flavor was left over. Diagram 1 shows which pie pieces were left over. You can see that there was one piece of blueberry pie, two pieces of key lime pie, and three pieces of cherry pie. By looking at the circle graph, you can easily see that there was more cherry pie left over than either of the other two types of pie, because the part of the circle graph representing cherry pie is the biggest. You can also see that there was less blueberry left over than any other type, because the part of the circle graph representing blueberry pie is the smallest. Since the part representing key lime pie is bigger than the part representing blueberry pie, we can tell that more key lime pie was left over compared to blueberry pie.

You can also talk about the parts of circle graphs in terms of percentages. A whole circle graph represents 100%. If half the circle graph is made up of cherry pie, then cherry pie represents 50% of the pie left over (since half of 100% is 50%). Since the parts representing blueberry and key lime pies are each smaller than the section representing cherry pie, that means less than 50% of the pie left over was either blueberry or key lime pie individually.

The next day, Mary went to the store and bought a bag of candies. She made a circle graph to show the different flavors of candy and compare how many of each there were. That graph is Diagram 2. How many different flavors of candy did she get, and how do the amounts of each flavor compare?

Since there are three differently colored sections in the circle graph, we know that she got three different flavors of candy. The butterscotch is the largest part, so there was more butterscotch-flavored candy in her bag than any other flavor. The smallest part is blueberry, so blueberry was the least common flavor in her bag. The lime part is larger than the blueberry part, but smaller than than the butterscotch part. Therefore, the lime flavor was more common than the blueberry, but less common than the butterscotch.

Remember that each part of the graph also tells us about the percentage in that category. Diagram 3 shows the percentage of boys and girls in a class. The red part represents boys, and the blue part represents girls. We can tell that the class has more girls than boys just by looking at the graph. The diagram says that 40% of the whole class is boys. Since a whole circle graph adds up to 100%, that means girls must make up 60% of the class, more than the boys. If there were the same number of girls and boys, the circle would be divided exactly in half.

A **circle graph** lets you compare parts to the whole, and parts to other parts. The size of each piece lets you know if there was more of less of one category than another. You can also use percentages to compare the sizes of parts.

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Elementary Math: Lesson Plans & Resources8 chapters | 237 lessons

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