Data is all around us, and with computers becoming faster and more powerful it is easy for systems to gather lots and lots of data. But what do you do with it, and how can you make it meaningful? Data represented in a meaningful diagram can be understood much easier, and quicker, than if it was presented in a table of figures. It takes a bit of skill and practise to know which diagram will send the message you want people to see. Test your skills in this GCSE Maths quiz!
It is easy to put your data into every diagram you know of, and end up with a bar chart, pie chart, stem and leaf diagram, frequency polygon and pictogram, but what information would each one give? Pie charts are good at showing the proportion of each category, but they don’t easily show the actual numbers involved.
Bar charts are good if there are lots of categories. Frequency diagrams and polygons work well with numerical data, as do stem and leaf diagrams, but not pictograms. There are other ways to represent data, each with their good and bad points.
Have a look at how data is presented in the media. Do they follow the guidelines of good practice in their diagrams, or can you see room for improvement? Both sides of a debate can take the same data and present it in different ways, such that it supports both sides of the argument! You won’t get caught out if you know how to extract information from the different types of data diagrams.