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What is a Pie Chart? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 What is a Pie Chart
  • 0:53 Uses of a Pie Chart
  • 1:47 How to Read Pie Charts
  • 2:32 Create Your Own
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Learn how useful pie charts can be in your life and how you can gain information by just glancing at one. Look over some examples, learn how to create pie charts yourself, and then take a short quiz.

What Is a Pie Chart?

What do you think of when you hear the word 'pie?' You more than likely think of the delicious dessert with a flaky crust and the filling of your choice. A 'pie' is certainly different than a 'pie chart,' although, oddly enough, both can be divided up into slices.

A pie chart displays data, information, and statistics in an easy-to-read 'pie-slice' format with varying slice sizes telling you how much of one data element exists. The bigger the slice, the more of that particular data was gathered.

Let's take, for example, the pie chart shown below. It represents the percentage of people who own various pets. As you can see, the 'dog ownership' slice is by far the largest, which means that most people represented in this chart own a dog as opposed to a cat, fish, or other animal.

Uses of a Pie Chart

The main use of a pie chart is to show comparison. When items are presented on a pie chart, you can easily see which item is the most popular and which is the least popular.

Various applications of pie charts can be found in business, school, and at home. For business, pie charts can be used to show the success or failure of certain products or services. They can also be used to show market reach of a business compared to similar businesses.

At school, pie chart applications include showing how much time is allotted to each subject. It can also be used to show the number of girls to boys in various classes. At home, pie charts can be useful when figuring out your diet. You can also use pie charts to see how much money you spend in different areas.

There are many applications of pie charts and all are designed to help you to easily grasp a bunch of information visually.

How to Read Pie Charts

Reading a pie chart is as easy as figuring out which slice of an actual pie is the biggest. Usually, you have several bits of data, and each is pictured on the pie chart as a pie slice. You will see that some data have larger slices than others. So you can easily decipher which data is more important to your audience than others.

For the pet ownership pie chart, I can easily see that rodents make up the smallest number of pets. So, what this tells me is that for pet owners, when choosing pets, rodents are at the bottom of their list. That's not to say that rodents make the worst pets, but the data shows that pet owners prefer dogs first and foremost, followed by cats, then fish, then rabbits, then rodents.

Create Your Own

Pie charts are created and used when the number of data is not too large. They are easy to make, both by hand or with computer software. Let's look at the pencil-and-paper method for a quick example.

First, we draw a big circle. Then we gather our data and write it down in table form. Let's say we wanted to make a pie chart about what we ate yesterday. Let's say we ate 2 servings of ice cream, 1 serving of vegetables, 3 servings of meat, and 1 serving of bread. In table form, from largest to smallest, it would look like this:

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