Graph paper

Graph paper (Photo credit: Wikipedia

My grandson visited recently, and, as he wasn’t feeling well enough to go out and walk the bluebell path that I had planned for the day, we stayed inside instead.

A friend had bought me placemats several years ago that have license plates of all the states, and we started playing around with them.

The placemats are based on a Mike Wilkins painted metal on wood art piece, called “Preamble” that hangs in the Smithsonian, for which he asked all the states to give him vanity license plates that would spell out the Preamble to the Constitution.

It was my son who noticed that the plates were in alphabetical order.

My grandson and I have been learning how to create graphs, so he asked if we could do some graphs with the license plate information.

You and your grandchildren can do the same thing.


  • List of all the states
  • Graph paper
  • Pen, pencil or crayon


  • Write a title across the bottom of a page of graph paper, “Number of Letters in State Names”
  • In the line above the title, write the numbers 1 through 15 across the bottom of a piece of graph paper. Leave one column blank between each number so it is easier to read
  • Count the number of letters in each state
  • For each state, put a circle on the graph paper above the number represented by the number of letters in that state, with circles building up from the bottom as you find more states with that number of letters
  • Thus, above the number four, there will be three circles stacked on top of each other, representing the three states with four letters in their name, Ohio, Iowa and Utah
  • Optional: For each state, put the 2-letter state code on the same column, but at the top of the page, going down, instead of building up from the bottom
  • Thus, above the 4 column, with the three circles, one on top of each other, coming down from the top edge of the page, you will have OH (Ohio), IA (Iowa) and UT (Utah)

What Will Happen?

Your graph will show how many states are represented with the number of letters from four to 13.

If you choose to put in the 2-letter state code, you will have a mirror-image of your graph at the top of the page.

I did this as a quality assurance check, so it would be easy to go back and see if I’d missed any states and which ones they were.

Count your circles when you are done to be sure you have 50.

You know, now, that the shortest state names are four letters and the longest are 13 letters.

What is the most popular number of letters? (Fourteen states have eight letters)

What is the least popular number of letters? (Two states have five letters)

What Else Might You Graph This Way?

Graph the number of different types of birds in your backyard for a week.

Your grandchildren might want to know if different brands of paper towels are more absorbent.

Graph the amount of water absorbed by a paper towel, then squeezed into a measuring cup, for each of three brands of paper towels and a cloth.

Graph the number of ants that walk into three circles on a sidewalk in front of your house, one with a spoonful of honey in the middle, one with a spoonful of sugar, and one with a slice of apple.

Count for 10 minutes after the ants find the first one.

Which do the ants find first? Which attracts the most ants?

Happy graphing with your grandchildren!


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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