Reading & Interpreting Bar Graphs

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  • 0:00 What Is a Bar Graph?
  • 0:28 Reading a Bar Graph
  • 2:46 Using the Information
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

In this lesson, you will learn about the parts of a bar graph and what they mean. You will look at the title, labels, and bars of data, and then you can practice reading and interpreting a sample bar graph.

What Is a Bar Graph?

If you've ever read a comparison of two or more things in a text book, you may have come across a box that looks something like this:

A sample bar graph
Sample Bar Graph

This is called a bar graph, and it's a way to show and compare data, or information. It's made of four main parts: a title, labels, a scale, and bars. The vertical, rectangular bars are what give it the name 'bar graph.'

Reading a Bar Graph

When you know how to read a bar graph, you can learn a lot about the items being compared. Let's learn to read these helpful tools using the following bar graph from Joel's Snack Stand:

Bar graph showing how many snacks Joel sold
snack stand

Part One: The Title

The first part of the bar graph is the title, which is usually at the top. On this bar graph, the title is 'Joel's Snack Stand Sales, Spring 2015.' What can we learn from this title? It begins with 'Joel's Snack Stand Sales.' This tells us what data we will be looking at is the snacks that Joel sold at his snack stand. Next, it says 'Spring 2015,' so we know the data is only about sales at a specific time; that is, spring 2015.

Part Two: The Labels

Below the graph is the label 'Kind of Snack,' and above it you see labels listing the snacks Joel sold, and they include chocolate bars, soft pretzels, bags of popcorn, lollipops, and bags of chips.

At the left of the graph is the label 'Number of Snacks Sold.' This means the graph will tell us how many chocolate bars, soft pretzels, bags of popcorn, lollipops, and bags of chips Joel sold.

Part Three: The Scale

The scale is the set of numbers along the left side of the graph. These help us see how much of a given item there is by which number the bar reaches. In our example, the scale includes 50, 100, 150, and 200.

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