Engaging students: Circle Graphs

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Phuong Trinh.  Her topic, from Pre-Algebra: circle graphs.

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How has this topic appeared in pop culture?

Circle graphs, or pie charts, are regularly used to visualize data and information. As technology advances, pie charts do not appear only in statistic or scientific documents anymore. They have started to show up more regularly on social media as a mean for the younger generation to express themselves. One can easily type “funny circle graphs” into Google and get back plenty of results on various.

While the students might not be familiar with the formal documents, they can easily put themselves into the situation described in Figure 1. The students can discuss what the colors from the picture represent, as well as the meanings of their proportion. From there, the students can make connection to the data and information from more formal subjects such as statistic or science.  On other hands, showing them a funny example not only will get a chuckle out of them, it can also pique their interest in the topic.


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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Circle graphs can be used in many projects and activity.  An activity that can get the students to engage in the topic is having the students create circle graphs about themselves, more specifically, how they spent their time on an average day. The students will be given a circle graph that is divided into 24 equal sectors. Each sector represents one hour. The students will use different colors to record their activities for one day (24 hours), and provide a key to show which activity is presented by each color. The proportions of each activity will be different, depends on how much time they spent for each activity. Once the graphs are completed, the students will share and explain their circle graphs with their shoulder partner. With this activity, the students will learn how to create and interpret a circle graph while sharing who they are.



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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

In this day and age, most students are familiar with technology. It is a great way to engage the students into the lesson.  The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a good website for getting students to understand the relationship between data and circle graphs (Reference A). The layout of the website is fairly simple and easy to understand with 2 tabs on the left side and 5 on the right. The left tabs include “Help” tab, which provides explanation for each element that appear on the right side of the page, and “Example” tab, which provides examples of how different types of graphs look like. The tabs on the right include “Design”, “Data”, “Labels”, “Preview”, and “Print/Save”. With the pie chart design, the site allows us to adjust the data amount, or “slices”, as well as input data as needed. On other notes, under the “Labels” tab, we can choose the type of value that will be shown (For example, value or % of total). As they explore the site, the students can compare their data with the graphs in order to make connection to how the arc length of each slice is proportional to the data it represents.


  1. Create A Graph. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/

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