How to Read a Table: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Melissa Murphy

Melissa has taught Biology and Nutrition to elementary through college students and has a PhD in Nutrition.

Understanding what a table is and how to use it can change the way you see the world! They are everywhere in our world - on food boxes, at sports events, on report cards. In this lesson, learn the components of a table and how to read one!

What is a Table?

Have you ever seen something like this when you are watching sports? What do all the numbers, words and spaces mean?

Team Scores

This table is telling us the number of points, penalties and bonuses that both Team A and Team B have. The way it's displayed side by side is comparing the numbers for both teams. In this lesson, you'll learn what a table is and how to read one.

Tables are used to record facts in an organized way. A table is composed of lines that form boxes. We say the boxes across the page are rows and the boxes going down the page are columns. The first row and first column in a table will have headers that help identify the information in the table. Numbers that match the labels at the top of each column and the left of each row will be placed in the table. In the Cats and Dogs Table, the column headers are 'Cat' and 'Dog' and the row headers are 'Black' and 'White.' The numbers under the 'Cat' column are the number of cats. The numbers in the 'Black' row are the number of animals that have black fur. On this table, there are also totals at the bottom and far right.

Cats and Dogs Table

How to Read a Table

A table can be read from left to right or from top to bottom. If you read a table across the row, you read the information from left to right. In the Cats and Dogs Table, the number of black animals is 2 + 2 = 4. You'll see that those are the numbers in the row directly to the right of the word 'Black.' If you read a table down a column, you read the information from top to bottom. In this case, the number of cats is 2 + 3 = 5.

Reading a table down one column or across one row is very useful. Another great way to use a table is to pick one row header and one column header to ask a question: How many black cats are there? In this table, follow the row labeled 'Black' to the right until you find the column that says 'Cats.' The box that lines up with both headers has a number that will answer this question: 2.

A Practice Example

Tables can be very simple, like the Team Scores Table, or with a little more information like the Cats and Dogs Table. There can be even more rows and columns like the Vegetable Table shown here.

Vegetable Table

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