Reading Tabular Information: Teachers’ Book Shelves

PROBLEM: The table below gives totals for the number of books in 5 third-grade classrooms. One of the teachers is Sarah’s teacher and one is Ben’s teacher. Sarah’s teacher has 20 more books than Ben’s teacher. Who is Sarah’s teacher?

Teacher Number of Books
Mrs. Alvarez 125
Mr. Benton 132
Ms. Collins 162
Miss Dillard 145
Mr. Elliott 155


  • A. Mrs. Alvarez
  • B. Mr. Benton
  • C. Ms. Collins
  • D. Miss Dillard
  • E. Mr. Elliott

This is my 4th blog post.  The first three blog posts described applications of the first four Power-Start goals concerning number order (#1); knowing one-digit facts (#2); base-ten ideas (#3); and solving arithmetic problems (#4). In addition to these first four goals, this 4th blog post also involves Power-Start Goal #5 — using information from a table to work with data.   In looking down the second column of the table displaying the number of books each teacher has in his or her classroom, we see that all five numbers end with either a 2 or 5 in the last digit.   Since the difference we are looking for is 20, we can use mental math and our understandings of the first four goals to find that Miss Dillard must be Sarah’s teacher.

Do you have a dog?

Being able to use information from a table or other data collection/analysis structure such as a diagram or graph is a hugely important math practice that can be applied in any field of study.     Data collection and analysis structures with fewer categories and smaller numbers can engage the interest of preschool children.   Consider the following structure for posing a question of the day.

Dog Y or N

The data collected here leads to numerous discussions:

  • How many “yes” answers and how many “no’s”?
  • How many more or fewer for each?
  • How many children voted?
  • How many children are present?
  • What if the tally changes?
  • What would the vote look like if the same number of children had a dog as those who didn’t have a dog.

Here are some other ideas for a yes-or-no questions for collecting data and your math lenses will help you to think of many more questions as you spend your days with young children.

  1. Are you wearing blue?
  2. Do you like to play in water?
  3. Are there more than two children in your family?

Collecting Data about Children’s Preferences

All of us like to be asked about our opinions and preferences, and children’s preferences can be engaging topics for conversation and collecting data.  As a family or school activity, make a table to talk about and ask children to construct bar graphs. Here is an example for collecting data of fruit preferences.

Apples Bananas July 9 18

Power-Start Goal #5 is a big deal and is really more of a general practice than a fact, property, or idea about numbers.   This practice, which is accessible to children in preschool, serves as a tool for critical reading and critical thinking in almost any subject. Use your math lenses to zoom in on situations which encourage children to think about organizing and analyzing data and be amazed at their thinking capabilities!

Reply with your ideas…..

Please reply to this post with any ideas you think of or find on the internet for data collection topics for preschoolers.








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