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Abstract

Graphs are one of the primary means of exploration and communication in the practice of science, but students in science laboratories are customarily taught only the low-level mechanics of constructing a single kind of graph when given a table of information. The use of a microcomputer can relieve the drudgery of plotting, allowing students to pursue higher-level issues in the design and interpretation of graphs through repeated “thought experiments.” We introduced computer-assisted graphical data analysis to inner-city high school students with weak math and science backgrounds, emphasizing the dynamic manipulation of various kinds of graphs to answer specific questions. Drawing on extensive recordings and classroom observations, we describe examples of the performance of these students on open-ended problem-solving tasks in which graphs can be used to arrive at meaningful answers to applied data analysis problems.