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Raising the Bar While Hogging the Ham (Radio, That Is)

Neme Alperstein
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
90 minutes (2 lessons, 45 minutes each)


This lesson teaches students the importance of using the appropriate scale when constructing a bar graph. In Cyberchase Episode #210, "Raising the Bar," the Cyberkids discover bugs in the cybrary and report this to Ms. Fileshare. The exterminator with the contract to rid the cybrary of the unwanted vermin manages to manipulate the bar graph to give the impression of having done a good job. The Cyberkids know this isn't the case but have to prove their point by "showing," not "telling" the numbers in the form of a bar graph. They make a fundamental mistake the first time around, so that Ms. Fileshare is not convinced. Through some clever detective work, problem solving skills, and clues from a "Squeaky Voice," the kids demonstrate how scale is needed to construct a bar graph that can prove their accusations against their rival, Hacker. In Cyberchase for Real, Harry and Bianca are given jobs selling refreshments in a movie theater. The one who sells the most candy can become "Employee of the Month" and win free movie passes. Harry and Bianca each make a graph to show how well they have done selling refreshments. The scales of the bar graphs are different, so the bars on Harry's graph appear taller than Bianca's. The results are puzzling because they have both sold the same amount. Segments of this episode, interaction on the Cyberchase Web site, and activities requiring the use of data in the construction of a bar graph to make a convincing argument will provide children with an understanding of how bar graphs can be used to compare values of different things quickly and easily.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Create a bar graph that quickly communicates an amount without the need to know exact data;
  • Compare the values in different categories easily and at-a-glance using bar graphs;
  • Determine the best scale to use on a graph so that the data is clearly communicated;
  • Use bar graphs to persuade others;
  • Compare and interpret the heights of bars on bar graphs that have the same scale quickly.


From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics grades K-12, available online at:

Representation Grades PreK 12
  • Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;
  • Select, apply, and translate among mathematical representations to solve problems;
  • Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena.

Media Components


Cyberchase Episode #210: Raising the Bar

Web sites:

Cyberchase: Bugs in the System
The Cybrary is infested, and children need to remove the bugs. The challenge is to use the bar graph scaler to successfully change the scale in order to accomplish the required tasks. Speed, skill, and a firm grasp of the scaling concept are needed to advance.

Create Your Own Bar Graph
This site enables students to create and print their own bar graphs online.

Scholastic Bar Graph Comparing Favorite Sports Watched
This bar graph from examines students' favorite sports to watch.

Scholastic Bar Graph Comparing Favorite Sports in which Students Compete
This bar graph from examines students' favorite sports in which to participate.

Scholastic Bar Graph Comparing Favorite School Uniform Colors
This bar graph from examines students' favorite colors for school uniforms.


For the class:

For each student:

  • Pen or pencil
  • Graph paper
  • Colored markers
  • Lined paper to write down data to be used in the bar graph