Create A Graph Tutorial

Learning Line Graphs

Line graphs can be used to show how something changes over time. Line graphs are good for plotting data that has peaks (ups) and valleys (downs), or that was collected in a short time period. The following pages describe the different parts of a line graph.

Trends in Expenditure Per Pupil in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1961-62 to 2001-02

The Title

The title offers a short explanation of what is in your graph. This helps the reader identify what they are about to look at. It can be creative or simple as long as it tells what is in the graph. The title of this graph tells the reader that the graph contains information about the changes in money spent on students of elementary and secondary schools from 1961 to 2002.

The Legend

The legend tells what each line represents. Just like on a map, the legend helps the reader understand what they are looking at. This legend tells us that the green line represents the actual dollar amount spent on each child and the purple line represents the amount spent when adjusted for inflation.

The Source

The source explains where you found the information that is in your graph. It is important to give credit to those who collected your data! In this graph, the source tells us that we found our information from NCES.


In line graphs, the y-axis runs vertically (up and down). Typically, the y-axis has numbers for the amount of stuff being measured. The y-axis usually starts counting at 0 and can be divided into as many equal parts as you want to. In this line graph, the y-axis is measuring the amount of money spent on individual students for public education.

The Data

The most important part of your graph is the information, or data, it contains. Line graphs can present more than one group of data at a time. In this graph, two sets of data are presented.


In line graphs, like the one above, the x-axis runs horizontally (flat). Typically, the x-axis has numbers representing different time periods or names of things being compared. In this line graph, the x-axis measured different school years.

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