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Graphing Names in a Historic Cemetery



  • Educational Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
    ----State History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Tally and graph the most common names found in a local historic cemetery.



  • collect information from gravestones about the names of the deceased.
  • list the different names (first, last, or both) that are found on the stones.
  • figure out which were the most common names at different times in history.
  • graph the most common names found. (optional)


cemetery, gravestones

Materials Needed

  • paper and pencil
  • graph-making software or access to the online tool Create a Graph (optional)
  • gravestone rubbing supplies (optional)

Lesson Plan

Fall, especially October, is a fun time to plan a trip to a local historic cemetery.

You might introduce this lesson by asking students to identify the most common names they know. Do any first names appear more than once among students in the class? Ask students if there are other common names in the school or their neighborhood.

Throughout history, there have always been names that have been more common or popular than others. You can prove this point by taking students to a local historic cemetery. Have them work individually, in groups, or as a class to tally the names they find on gravestones in the cemetery.

Students might tally first names, last names, or both. Or you might divide students into groups and have some tally first names and others keep track of last names.
When students return to the classroom, have them gather their data and create a list of names and the number of times each of those names was found. Which were the five or ten most common names? Have students create graphs to show those names and how many of each they found on cemetery stones.
Students might employ technology to create their graphs. If your students do not have access to a graph-making technology tool, the free online graph-making tool called Create a Graph makes creating appealing graphs an easy task.

If you teach young students, you might have them graph only names of people who died prior to 1900. If you teach older students, you might have them graph name by decade.

Before You Visit the Cemetery

Should you allow your students to do gravestone rubbings to display in class? Before you consider having students do rubbings, be sure to read Some Gravestone Rubbing Dos and Don'ts. If doing such rubbings is appropriate, you might first read How to Make a Gravestone Rubbing. Also, for some general tips about planning a field trip to a cemetery, read Cemetery Field Trip Preparation.

Additional Resources


Did students work cooperatively to gather data? Did they create accurate data and graphs? You might also ask students to write in their journals a summary of what they learned from this activity.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

MATHEMATICS: Data Analysis and Probability
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-DATA.3-5.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-DATA.6-8.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-DATA.9-12.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data

MATHEMATICS: Representation
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

NSS-USH.K-4.1 Living and Working together in Families and Communities, Now and Long Ago
NSS-USH.K-4.2 The History of Students' Own State or Region
GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-USH.5-12.1-10All Eras

NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations NT.K-12.3 Technology Productivity Tools

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