Math Glyphs

What Are Glyphs?

Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection.   You might be reminded of the term "hieroglyphics" and think about early picture writing.   Different forms of glyphs are used in many medical situations to quickly record data about a patient in pictorial form.   For example, a dentist records cavities on a picture of teeth.   A chiropractor might record injuries or muscle aches on a skeletal picture. In these cases, a "picture is worth a thousand words" and the glyph allows a doctor to more quickly record and analyze the data.

Students in elementary school often create paper art projects for different seasons or holidays. It is easy to transform these traditional projects into mathematical glyphs that allow students to organize and analyze data over several visits. Original Glyphs

These glyphs were developed as seasonal craft activities that develop mathematical understanding of data collection and data analysis.

Elf Glyph

This elf glyph comes complete with legend and patterns for easy assembly by students.

Jack-o-Lantern Glyph

Examples of Math Glyph Activities

There are many good templates for glyphs in both books and online that have been developed primarily for use by elementary students. One favorite glyph is "Face It, We're Cute!" found in Super Graphs, Venns & Glyphs by Honi Bamberger and Patricia Hughes.   This data collection activity is especially appropriate as a beginning of the school year activity as it collects data about each student in the class (birthday, how many brothers & sisters, how many people in family, first name, favorite subject, etc.) which is then presented as a face with features and accessories that capture the data.

These face glyphs make a great "Getting to Know You" bulletin board for students and parents.   Teachers can then use the glyph bulletin board to generate some data analysis questions such as how many students in our class have only brothers or have a birthday in the fall, etc.   Students use the glyph key to interpret the class display and they can use a tally sheet or bar graph to present specific results.

Glyphs also present a writing prompt and have been used in various ways to encourage students to analyze data and present their findings in written form.   Some teachers have students exchange glyphs and write a "Who Am I?" riddle about their classmate's glyph.   After collecting all riddles, the class is encouraged to listen to each riddle as it is read aloud and identify the appropriate glyph.   Other teachers assign a specific question to each small group or partnership and require them to examine the glyphs and write about the class results for that particular question.

Teacher Resources

These are great resources for teachers and students getting started with glyphs:

  • Super Graphs, Venns, & Glyphs by Honi Bamberger & Patricia Hughes
  • Great Glyphs Around the Year by Honi Bamberger & Patricia Hughes
  • Glyphs Data Communication: For Primary Mathematicians by Susan O'Connell
  • Glyphs II: Data Communication for Elementary Mathematicians by Susan R. O'Connell

Halloween Glyphs

Mrs. Bestle's first graders at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ, created pumpkin glyphs.   Students had to read the legend then decide which shapes they needed to create their pumpkin glyphs.   Black construction paper squares below each Halloween glyph asked "Who Am I?" to encourage students to interpret the glyphs and decide which classmate had made each glyph.   After guessing, students could lift the flap to check the name.

Gingerbread Glyphs

Mrs. Winkleman's kindergarten students at Flynn School in Perth Amboy, NJ, created gingerbread man glyphs.   Students colored their gingerbread figures to answer the following questions:

  • boy or girl?
  • favorite dessert? ice cream or cake
  • siblings? brothers, sisters, both, none
  • pet? have a pet or no pet
  • age? 5 or 6 years old
  • eaten gingerbread? have eaten gingerbread or never ate gingerbread
  • kindergarten student?

More Gingerbread Glyphs

Mrs. Zeigler's students at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ, also created gingerbread glyphs.

Turkey Glyphs

Students in Mrs. Bestle's first grade at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ, created turkey glyphs that tell a story about how they celebrate Thanksgiving and what foods they like to eat on that special day.

Elf Glyphs

Mrs. Bestle's class at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ, made elf glyphs to display on the hall bulletin board. They challenged other students to guess who was who.

Snowman Glyphs

Mrs. Arocho's kindergarteners at Patten School in Perth Amboy, NJ, created snowman glyphs.   They posted their glyphs and the legend in the hallway so that other students could learn more about the class.

Links for Additional Glyph Ideas & Activities: