Tools like Canva and even good ol’ PowerPoint make it incredibly easy to quickly create good looking graphs. But as Randy Krum points out in his book, Cool Infographics, a graphic that looks good isn’t necessarily a good graphic. In fact, many times a graphic is made to look good in order to distract from the reality of the information presented within it. That’s a point that is made in a few ways in a TED-Ed lesson titled How to Spot a Misleading Graph.
By watching How to Spot a Misleading Graph students can learn about three ways in which graphs can be misleading. Those ways are distorting the scale of the graph, manipulating the X or Y axis of a graph, and cherry-picking or not providing context for data in a graph. The whole lesson can be found here and the video is embedded below.
Applications for Education
This video could make a great addition to your list of resources for teaching students how to be savvy media consumers. After watching the video I’d have students do two things. First, I’d have them look through a few newspapers or journals (online or physical) to try to find some graphs that use one of the misleading techniques taught in the TED-Ed lesson. Second, I’d provide students with some datasets to try their hands at creating accurate graphs as well as slightly misleading graphs.