Starting tomorrow May 22: Hurry over to Amazon and get your Kindle version of ‘Letters From Grandma: Before You Were Born’ for free! Who doesn’t like free, right? This offer is only good through Monday May 27 so don’t delay.
This is a heartwarming collection of letters written by a first time grandmother, me, to her grandson before he was born.
If you choose to download the book and you like it, leaving a positive Amazon review would be very much appreciated.
As long as my grandson has been willing to play around with graphs recently, we have been trying to come up with more things to graph.
A scatter plot with trend line of baby age to height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After we graphed the number of letters in state names and the size of states in area and population, we turned to rivers and created scatter plots.
One of the things I found out in all this graphing activity is that you have to figure out how many lines you have available on your graph paper, in both directions, across the top and up the side. Then, find out the highest numbers you will need. That way, you can figure out what numbers to put on the left side, or vertical or y-axis, of your graph, or across the bottom, the horizontal or x-axis.
For example, what is the longest river in the United States? If you had said the Missouri, you’d be right (2,341 miles). If you’d said the Mississippi, you’d be close (2,202 miles). It is the second longest river. Then, come the Yukon (1,979 miles) and the Rio Grande rivers (1,759 miles).
Let’s get graphing!
Pencil or pen
A reference book, such as an atlas or almanac, or the Internet to find the lengths of the top 15 longest rivers in the U.S.
Have your grandchild write the title of the graph across the top: 15 Longest Rivers in the U.S.
Count the number of lines across the bottom and up the side of the graph paper.
My paper had 8 large boxes across the bottom, the short side, and 10 boxes up the left side, the long side. Each box had 4 lines inside, in addition to the dark lines marking the sides of the boxes.
You will need 15 lines across for the 15 rivers. Label lines or spaces an equal distance apart across the bottom edge with river names or 2-letter abbreviations.
I found it easier to make the graph if I started on the left corner at the bottom of the page with the shortest of the 15 rivers, continuing across the bottom of the page and ending with the longest river to be labeled, even though your list probably starts with the longest river.
Normally, the bottom left of a graph shows the lowest number, rising to the top right corner for the highest number.
You or your grandchildren can label the middle of every other line with river names or abbreviations, across the bottom.
You or your grandchild can label each of the lines going up the side of the graph paper. I labeled mine in 100s, thus, 0 on the bottom line on the left of the page, 100 on the line above it, 200 on the line above that. You have to get to at least 2,400, because the longest river in the U.S. is the Missouri, at 2,341 miles.
Have your grandchild find the spot above the first river, in my case, the shortest, the Green River, at 760 miles long, where the column above the river name is about the same height as the number nearest to the length of the river. Since you have labeled the lines by 100s, the 7th line up is 700. To show 760 miles, put a dot about half-way between the 700 line and the 800 line.
The next shortest of the 15 rivers is the Brazos, at 860 miles. Have your grandchild find the spot above where the Brazos River is labeled, and put a dot between the 800 and 900 lines.
They are making a scatter plot!
Continue looking for the spot that represents the length of the river and put a dot above where the river is labeled, until you have all 15 dots.
Optional: Make a scatter plot for the 20 longest rivers in the world.
Since the Nile is 6,650 miles long, the graph you made for the U.S. rivers won’t be big enough.
Either tape a piece of graph paper to the top of the U.S. rivers graph and continue labeling the lines by 100s up the left side, or start a new graph and label the lines by 200s.
Why Is This Useful?
One of the first things you will notice when you have all 15 dots on your U.S. river graph, or all 20 on your world river graph, is that the dots tend to cluster. Seven of the U.S. rivers lie between the 800-mile and 1,200-mile lengths. No other 400-mile range has so many rivers. Similarly, six of the longest rivers in the world lie in the 3,200-mile to 3,800-mile range and six lie in the 4,200 to 4,700-mile range.
Scatter plots make it easy to see patterns like this.
One of the best examples comes from statistician Edward Tufte, who specializes in making information easy to understand with graphs. One of his most dramatic examples is a scatter plot showing how much more often a critical component of a rocket ship, the O-ring, failed as the temperature dropped.
He argues that had the information been displayed in a scatter plot instead of the timeline that was used, it would have been easy for engineers and managers to see how unsafe it was to allow the Challenger to launch when the temperature was below freezing, and avert what came to be the Challenger disaster. Instead, they were left with the fact that sometimes an O-ring didn’t fail at temperatures below freezing, instead of seeing that the cluster of successful launches were well above freezing and very few successful launches were below freezing.
On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was given permission to launch, broke up 73 seconds into its flight and seven astronauts died.
This past week we have had some beautiful weather in New England. It evokes fond summer memories of swimming, eating outside and watching the kids chase fireflies.
Other memories come to mind too, such as playing Name That Spot on my kids’ bodies. By mid-summer my kids’ skins look like a veritable galaxy of constellations. Heat rashes, poison ivy and insect bites mark my kids, making it difficult to identify the cause of the spots.
In addition, there are a number of rash-inducing viruses that like to pop out and enjoy the warmer weather. Other than leaving their mark on your kid’s skin for a few days, these viruses are generally mild and induce little to no symptoms.
Fifth’s Disease (Parvovirus B19)
Although this rash is seen late in winter, it is also seen in the springtime. Children with Fifth’s disease have a characteristic rash on their face that looks as though their cheeks have been slapped (also called “slapped cheek” syndrome). The rash on the face might also resemble sunburn. Sometimes a lacy rash will also appear on the arms and legs, and less often on the trunk. The rash is more visible when a child becomes heated, such as after playing outside or in the bath. The rash usually goes away after 7-10 days but can continue to come and go for several weeks.
Children with Parvovirus B19 usually have very few symptoms other than the rash. In some cases they may develop a low-grade fever and runny nose or have a few days of feeling crummy. Sometimes a child might complain of itching; this can be relieved by using a soothing lotion or by taking cool showers.
Fifth’s disease is caused by a common virus called Parvovirus B19. This is not the parvovirus that infects dogs and cats, so your child did not catch it from Rover. The virus is spread through sneezing and coughing.
The enteroviruses are a large group of viruses – at least 63 different enteroviruses are known to infect humans. The majority of these viruses appear in the summer. Prior to vaccination, poliovirus was the most infamous enterovirus. Parents used to be afraid to allow their children to play outside during the summer months for fear of getting polio. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about polio anymore and the rest of the enteroviruses cause milder disease.
The name of this disease is pretty descriptive for where the rash occurs. Children with HFMD develop small, tender blisters and red spots on the palms, soles of feet and inside the mouth (usually on the tongue, gums and cheek). Prior to developing the localized rash, a faint rash might be observed over the body.
Children with HFMD may also have general “cold-like” symptoms such as low fever, sore throat and tiredness, typically before the rash appears. Children can also develop diarrhea. Symptoms typically last 5-7 days.
HFMD is caused by 2 different types of enteroviruses: a group of viruses called the Coxsackie A viruses and another virus called Enterovirus 71. The viruses that cause HFMD are very common and are spread easily, particularly wherever children are grouped together (think summer camp).
Herpangina is also called mouth blisters and is seen as a very localized mouth rash towards the back of the mouth. The blisters will typically last 7-10 days.
Children with this infection typically have a high fever, sore throat, headache and loss of appetite. Herpangina is often mistaken for strep throat until the culture comes back negative. There is no treatment for herpangina other than giving over-the-counter pain relievers (but never give aspirin to a child with a viral infection).
Herpangina can be caused by Coxsackie A viruses, a second group of Coxsackie viruses called B viruses, or a third type of enteroviruses called echoviruses.
Children often develop summer-time rashes over parts of their bodies that have no clear cause. If the rash is also accompanied by mild symptoms similar to the common cold or the child also has a sore throat or diarrhea, it is often assumed that enteroviruses are the cause. Given the number of viruses in this family, this is probably a good assumption!
I hope you don’t have to play Name That Spot too often this summer, but if you do, I hope you find this post useful!
I am a scientist and mother of 5 children. I used to work full-time in my laboratory and try to be a hands-on mom. It wasn’t working. A major move gave me the chance to explore other options. I began science writing and started my blog, madscientistcrazymom.com, to share my experiences.