Asif Kamal – The completely wrong way to describe a graph


Asif Kamal was one guy who really puzzled me in the beginning classes. Asif comes from a small town near Hyderabad. He did his secondary school there but shifted to Hyderabad for his Engineering Degree. He was a keen sports enthusiast and had been on the college cricket team. He wanted to pursue his higher studies abroad in the field of computer science.
What puzzled me was the way he interpreted graphs. Interpreting graphs is one of the two tasks in the Writing Test. When I gave a graph in the initial class and ask him to interpret the graph, he interpreted it literally. He was describing the graph as an image instead of a set of data points. He would go, “There is an X-axis and a Y-axis, the point on the X-axis are marked at 1 cm apart but the points on Y-axis are marked two cm apart. There is a box on top in which three things are listed.”
He took the graph to be an image, like say a map or a photo of an object and began to describe it including the colours on the graph! I had to stop him and explain to him that what was expected was the interpretation of the data and not the description of the image. When I gave him a map of a school that had changed over the years he described it correctly. I understood that the problem for him was the conceptual understanding of what was needed when interpreting the graph.
So I took a couple of special classes for him to understand the language of change that has to be used when interpreting the graph. Once he grasped the idea, there was no looking back. He interpreted all the graphs with ease and in fact, went on to help other students when they were struggling with the graphs. My earlier apprehension that the Writing test would be the most difficult for him was laid to rest as he breezed through all the writing test in the class.
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