What is a Picture Graph? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Definition of a Picture Graph
  • 0:47 Picture Graph Examples
  • 1:30 Constructing a Picture Graph
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Cory Haley
Expert Contributor
Kathryn Boddie

Kathryn earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics from UW-Milwaukee in 2019. She has over 10 years of teaching experience at high school and university level.

We will explore the function of a picture graph and look at some examples. Also, in this lesson you will learn to create questions and organize, represent, and interpret data from a picture graph.

Definition of a Picture Graph

A picture graph is a pictorial display of data with symbols, icons, and pictures to represent different quantities. The symbols, icons, and pictures of a picture graph typically represent concepts or ideas, or stand in for a larger quantity of something. For example, a single stick man on a picture graph could represent a million people in a city's population.

The use of picture graphs dates back to the ancient Egyptians. They used pictures known as hieroglyphics to convey a message. Take a moment and look at the image here.

As you can see in this picture graph, each picture plus another picture represents a new meaning. Even today, we use and see picture graphs daily. Today we will learn how we can use pictures to organize, represent, and interpret data.

Picture Graph Examples

Did you know that with a picture graph we can create questions based off of the displayed data? Check out this picture graph.

The first question you might ask is, how many different fruits are represented in this picture graph? A glance tells us that there are four types of fruit represented in the picture graph. Then, as we analyze the picture graph and look at the key on the right, we see that each individual fruit picture equals 2 fruits. For example, there are five oranges pictured, but the key tells us that represents 10 (not 5) actual oranges in this picture graph. Another question we can ask is, which fruit was eaten the most? Another quick glance tells us that the correct answer is the apple, which students reported eating 20 times.

Constructing a Picture Graph

It's important to know that certain types of picture graphs must have certain features. Take a moment and look at the picture graph here. You can see how different it is from the earlier graphs we looked at.

The first step in creating any kind of picture graph is to give it a title, which will provide an overview of the data being displayed. The title of this picture graph is 'Our Pets' - that tells the viewer of the graph that they'll learn something about the maker of the graph's pets.

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Additional Activities

Picture Graph Activity

We will use our knowledge of picture graphs from the lesson to create our own picture graphs. You will need the following materials:


  • Paper and pencil for data collecting
  • Blank, unlined paper or poster board
  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons, or your choice of colored drawing materials
  • Ruler


1) Decide what data you want your picture graph to represent. Some possible ideas are:

  • Favorite animal
  • Favorite type of pizza
  • Favorite vegetable
  • Least favorite vegetable
  • Number of siblings
  • Number of pets

You may use any idea you want - these are just suggestions.

2) Collect data for your picture graph. Ask people about the topic for your graph. For instance, if your picture graph is about favorite animals, ask many people what their favorite animal is. Make sure you write down every response you get - the more people you ask, the more interesting the picture graph may be.

3) Examine the data - find out how many responses you had for each answer. Knowing the numbers of each response will help you determine the scale for your graph.

4) Take the poster board or blank unlined paper and set up the axes for your graph. Make sure you use the ruler to keep your lines straight. In general, the vertical axis will be a counting axis, and the horizontal axis will have the responses. Don't forget a title for your graph as well. Depending on the number of responses, you may want the scale of your graph to count by ones, fives, tens, or even more. In most cases, ones or fives will be the best choice. For example, if you had 3 people like zebras best, 2 like dogs best, and 5 like elephants best, counting by ones would display the data nicely, but if you had 30 for zebras, 20 for dogs, and 50 for elephants, fives or tens might work better (since 50 elephants is a lot!)

5) After the axes are set up and labeled with the scale and responses, create a picture graph by drawing a picture representing each response. Below is an image of an example of what a completed picture graph could look like.

6) Share your picture graph with the people you gathered data from. Explain how to read the picture graph and use the picture graph to explain the results of your survey.

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