What are axes?

What are axes?
We explain what axes are and how your child will be taught to use axes on pictograms, bar charts and graphs.

What are axes?

Axes are the horizontal and vertical lines used to frame a graph or chart:

Using axes in diagrams and to plot coordinates

Children start looking at pictograms and bar charts in Key Stage 1. They will not be expected to name axes or understand what they are at this stage.

In Year 3, they will start to construct their own bar charts and pictograms. Some children will be given ready-drawn and labelled axes and more able children will just be given squared paper and asked to draw their chart from scratch.

In Year 4 children learn to read and plot coordinates on a grid with an x axis and a y axis.

As children move into upper Key Stage 2, they will be required to draw and label their own axes. For example, they may have collected the following information:

Time Length of my shadow / cm
9am 320
10.30am 190
12 noon 70
1.30pm 150
3pm 205
  • Faced with a squared A4 sheet of paper, they will need to think about whether it is best to have the paper landscape or portrait.
  • They will need to draw their axes, making sure to leave plenty of space at the bottom and left-hand side for labelling.
  • They will need to be aware that whenever time is involved, it goes along the horizontal axis. 
  • Since the times above are spaced evenly, they will need to space their five markings for each time evenly, making sure that they spread out the length of the horizontal axis so the graph is not too cramped.
  • Before labelling the vertical axis, they will need to think about the highest value in the right hand column of their table. The highest value is 320cm, so it may be a good idea to mark the axis so it goes up to 350cm.
  • The tricky bit is deciding what number to count up in and how they will mark these values on. Say their vertical axis is 15 squares high. They may decide to count up in 50s. Since there will be seven jumps from 0 to 350, it may be a good idea to mark each point every two lines.

Drawing up bar charts and graphs takes a lot of practice. Children may need plenty of support before they can do this on their own.