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How Well Can You Read Graphs and Charts?
by Kennita Leon
Wiki Commons Various

Data is all around us, and one of the number one jobs our brains have to do is help filter out the white noise to focus on what's really important. If you bombard someone with too much to take in, they don't speed up to keep up with you: generally speaking, they just shut down and stop listening altogether. It's all about choosing what to present, and how to present, to communicate your point.

That's where good visualization can come in. If you can translate an idea into an image -- a pie chart, a bar graph, a flow chart, even the slightly more challenging histogram -- you can immediately make sense of it and convey it to others. For those of us who are especially visual thinkers, this is way more fun than wading through a huge text when we could get the same amount of information simply by distilling it into a few colors. You could expend 500 words trying to explain concepts like fractions, divisions, percentages, and fairness, or you can just put a real pie in front of them and people will instinctively get what you mean. Similarly, you can depict things changing over time, like the stock market, opinion polls, or inflation; or make projections and visualizations about the weather, climate, traffic flow, or really anything at all. So let's see how good you are at getting the right info out of an infographic!

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