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Stem and Leaf Plot Activity

Materials needed

  • overhead projector, transparencies of sample stem and leaf plots, activity worksheets (Follow links below to download the worksheets needed for this activity. Worksheets were created using Math Composer.)


  • Intro: What are statistics? Have a class discussion about what they think of when they hear the word statistics, where they come across statistics in their life, and what statistics are used for. Discuss the reasons for using graphical/pictorial representations for displaying statistics.
  • Show two sets of test scores from a class represented in stem and leaf plots and back to back stem and leaf plots (see test score materials). Explain basics of stem and leaf plots and how to create them. Discuss with the class what they can see/generalize from looking at the stem and leaf plots. What might be some limitations?
  • Give students the handout with instructions for data collecting activity. (see data collecting handouts). Students will pair up. Each student is given the same sentence to write. One student in each pair will be the timer first and time the other student writing the sentence with their dominant hand and then with their non-dominant hand. They will record both times. Then the students switch roles and repeat the process.
  • The class will write all the results on a chart on the board. Each student will copy the data from the board and put it into two separate stem and leaf plots (one for the dominant hand results and one for the non-dominant hand results) and then a back to back stem and leaf plot with both sets of data in one plot.
  • The class will discuss what we can see about the data from the plots (outliers, comparisons and contrasts between the sets of data, generalizations) and what are positives and negatives about this type of representation. What kind of data might be appropriate to represent with stem and leaf plots?

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2005 Data Illustrated