Discrete & Continuous Data: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 Defining Data
  • 1:05 Discrete and Continuous Data
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

You might be surprised to find that data is more than just a collection of numbers. Data is divided into several categories, including discrete and continuous data. Find out why!

Understanding Data

Madison is doing some fundraising for her school band. When the fundraising is finished, she will need to create a report that identifies how many products she sold, how much money she raised, and how many instruments they can buy using the money Madison raised. Each of these items represents different types of data.

In this lesson, you will learn about the different types of numerical, or quantitative, data. There are two types of numerical data: discrete and continuous. However, before we get into the different types of numerical data, it is important to understand data and numerical data.

First, you need to understand data, which is information that is collected for analysis. Data is generally used to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Data can be grouped into two different categories: categorical and quantitative. You can learn more about the differences between categorical and quantitative data in our other lessons. For now, understand that categorical data is grouped into categories or topics, while quantitative data is data that can be measured and ordered.

Discrete and Continuous Data

As part of her fundraiser, Madison is selling cupcakes door-to-door in an effort to buy more flutes and trumpets for the school band. Instruments and cupcakes represent a form of quantitative data known as discrete data, which is data that cannot be divided; it is distinct and can only occur in certain values. For example, instruments and cupcakes are both discrete data in this scenario because Madison cannot buy half of an instrument or sell half of a cupcake. The value of cupcakes and instruments are distinct values.

On the other hand, continuous data is data that can be divided infinitely; it does not have any value distinction. The amount of time it takes to sell the cupcakes is an example of continuous data. You can remember this by remembering that time itself is continuous and never ending. Also, you can divide time infinitely. There are centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds and so on.

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