Deciphering Graphs

In fourth grade, Natalie sat down with her big box of color pencils and noticed that she used some pencils more often than others. She lined them up–shortest to longest–and then created this graph to show usage.

During seventh grade, Natalie and I began taking a careful look at graphs in the New York Times, which frequently uses well-conceptualized, visually interesting graphs to impart information.  Our appreciation for information analysis (and semantics in the following example) deepened with the interesting illustration below of the ways in which one can get very different answers to a polling survey based on the phrasing of the question. Thus, ever since we sat next to each other on the couch discussing and comparing this visual comparison of research, we get excited when we see an interesting graph.  It means we get to have one of our “deciphering sessions.”  It’s like playing a fun board game and is good practice for evaluating information and data, drawing connections between one piece of information and another, and visualizing facts and research.  As you can see below, Natalie circled the word “compete” as a determining word, i.e. she felt it influenced people’s answers.  She wrote, “The word ‘compete’ stands out amongst the other words and puts a negative image into people’s heads.”

Recently, the Los Angeles Times published an in-depth report on global population. The graphs that were included in this five-part series are quite magnificent, visually and informationally. “Data visualization” was credited to Thomas Suh Lauder and Ken Schwenckebelow.

Click on the link below to see the article and the graphs in Part 1, headlined:


Fertility rates fall, but global population explosion goes on,0,7213271.htmlstory

Note about the series:

Los Angeles Times staff writer Kenneth R. Weiss and staff photographer Rick Loomis traveled across Africa and Asia to document the causes and consequences of rapid population growth. They visited Kenya, Uganda, China, the Philippines, India, Afghanistan and other countries. Weiss, a graduate of UC Berkeley, has been a Times reporter and editor since 1990. He has covered politics, government, higher education, science and the environment. Loomis has been a Times photojournalist since 1994. He graduated from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism and a minor in Latin American studies. He has reported extensively from Afghanistan, often accompanying U.S. Army, Marine or Special Forces units. He also covered the popular uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya. Interactive Developer: Armand Emamdjomeh; Design Director: Stephanie Ferrell; Data Visualization: Thomas Suh Lauder, Ken Schwencke

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