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Tricky Graphs

Sometimes, graphs can be confusing. For instance, the x-axis of this graph counts by ones, but the y-axis counts by tens.

Why would somebody want axes with different scales? They might want to graph a bunch of points with big y-coordinates, but small x-coordinates. The different scales make the graph easier to read.

Here is a graph of the points (1, 20), (2, 30), and (3, 10):

points (1, 20), (2, 30), and (3, 10)

Changing scales makes the value of a point look bigger or smaller. Suppose that the value of the y-coordinate stood for your allowance. Then you might want to make the point look very small, so that you could persuade someone to raise your allowance.

Here is the point (1, 2) graphed using two different scales:

point (1, 2)

point (1, 2)

Which scale would you choose for your allowance? What about the distance from your home to school?

Sometimes, people make graphs that skip several points. Don't let these graphs trick you! Here's a graph where the y-axis starts at 100:

A fly is sitting at point (2, 102).

fly at (2, 102)

Sam wants to eat the fly, so he crawls out to 2 on the x-axis and sticks his tongue straight up. Unfortunately, his tongue gets tangled in the warp zone before 100. (We told you about this kind of graph to make it harder for other people to trick you. Don't make graphs that skip points, or you could get tangled, too.)

Sam at (2, 0) and fly at (2, 102)

Sam will have to find another fly to eat. Luckily, he is good at finding things.


Please send questions, comments, and suggestions
to Ursula Whitcher

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