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WolframAlpha: Comparing Authentic Data


Activity Description

Use WolframAlpha to create graphical information that can be used for pre-reading activities, jigsaw speaking activities, grammar explanations and practice, and writing. Using the Example search (above) which compares three of the largest cities in America, teachers can present comparative and superlative adjectives with information about the three cities or use local cities (such as those shown in Example Document-Example Activities for Reading & Writing Using WolframAlpha, above); the information can also be used to create an information gap activity by deleting some information to create an A and B sheet which has different information missing so that students need to ask questions in pairs to fill in the missing information; or the chart and information can be used for grammar and writing practice (New York City has the largest population. Chicago has higher taxes than Los Angeles. Chicago has the highest elevation). Students will get practice reading and understanding charts and graphical information, calculating, and comparing and contrasting.


  1. Make sure that the site is not blocked at your school before using it or having students use it.
  2. Select two or more items you would like to have displayed (cities, countries, or other geographical areas, animals, food, etc.). For example, if you are teaching diet and nutrition, you could display the nutritional information about foods – see, for example, this information on three fruits , which compares calories, fiber, fat, etc., of apples, bananas, and oranges).
  3. Preview the site before you use it with students and check that the information displayed will be usable and comprehensible to your students.
  4. Decide what terminology you will need to pre-teach or explain.
  5. Plan an activity by deciding how you will use the data: to present information for a grammar lesson (comparatives, for example), as a pre-reading activity, as a jigsaw speaking activity, or as a writing activity. If you will use the data that compares two or more items as an info gap activity, print the displayed data twice, deleting some information for version A and other information for version B.
  6. You will need to pre-teach students the questions to ask in pairs in order for them to successfully share information and fill in the missing information provided by the partners.


  1. Visit the Web site shown below under Web Site.
  2. In the text box, type in the items you would like compared and press the Enter key on your keyboard.
  3. Data about the items you entered will be displayed in tables and graphical forms, and with images, as appropriate.
  4. Display the Web page by projecting it, or share the Web address (URL) via e-mail or by posting on a class Web page.
  5. To download the data for printing, you will need a subscription, but you can select a free trial. You can print the information from the Web browser, however, or share the URL, as in the examples provided.
  6. Display the data, explaining unfamiliar vocabulary to students and using it for whichever activity you planned: grammar presentation, reading, writing, info gap speaking.

Teacher Tips

More Ways

  • Alternatively, have students work individually, in pairs, or small groups using the site to enter their own chosen topics based on themes that are covered in class (food, transportation, cities, countries, geographical areas, animals, occupations/wages, etc.) and write and present the information comparing and contrasting items to the class.
  • The site provides examples in many topics . Of special interest in ESL may be Words and Linguistics, Anagrams, and Word Puzzles.

Program Areas

  • ESL: English as a Second Language


  • Beginning High
  • Intermediate Low
  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced



grammar, reading, speaking, writing, adjectives,adverbs,animals,charts,cities,comparatives,comparing,comparisons,contrasts,data,diet,differences,gap,geography,graphical literacy,graphs,info,info gap,information gap,jigsaw,similarities,superlatives,WoframAlpha
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.