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Reading Coordinate Graphs as Maps & Measuring Relative Coordinates

Instructor: LaToija Snodgrass

LaToija has taught college health administration, economics, technology, and biology courses. She earned a master of public health degree in epidemiology.

Learn how to read and create points on a graph as if you were looking at a map. Discover how to travel up, down, left and right on the graph! Learn how to read number pairs on the graph and find points, too!

X and Y on the Graph

It's recess time and you choose to ride your bike. You turn left to right, face forward, or move backward to explore the playground. Keep that in mind as we explore graphs as if we're moving on a map.

The line drawn from left to right of the graph is labeled X and the line drawn from top to bottom is labeled Y.

Section I (quadrant 1) is the area that has positive numbers on the X and Y lines.

Section II (quadrant 2) is the area that has negative numbers on the X line and positive numbers on the Y line.

Section III (quadrant 3) is the area that has negative numbers on the X and Y lines.

Section IV (quadrant 4) is the area that positive numbers on the X line and negative numbers on Y line.

Positive and Negative Numbers on a Graph

  1. Think of negative numbers on the X line as traveling left.
  2. Think of negative numbers on the Y line as traveling down.
  3. Think of positive numbers on the X line as traveling right.
  4. Think of positive numbers on the Y line as traveling up.

Knowing these areas will give you clues to help you find numbers much faster!

Four quadrants on graph plot
Four quadrants on a graph

How to Read Coordinates

The term 'coordinates' is just a fancy word that means the X and Y pair of numbers. It is written like this (X, Y). The number that is on the X line is placed where X is and the number that is on the Y line is placed where the Y is, as shown below.

For example, on the next graph: Point (2,3) shows that 2 is the number on X line and 3 is the number on the Y line that we are traveling to. You just read a coordinate pair!

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