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Reading & Interpreting Stem-and-Leaf Plots

Instructor: Francine White

Francine has taught elementary school and is currently an elementary Math specialist. She has two Master's degrees: Curriculum and Instruction in Math K-14 and Educational Leadership

Stem-and-leaf plots? No, we are not going to study plants. In this lesson, you will learn what a stem-and-leaf plot is, how to read one, and how to interpret it. You will become a pro in no time!

What Is a Stem-and-Leaf Plot?

Just like charts and graphs, a stem-and-leaf plot is another way to visually organize numerical data. In a stem-and-leaf plot, the last digit in the number is the leaf, and the remaining digit or digits to the left is the stem.

Reading and Interpreting a Stem-and-Leaf Plot

Let's pretend that these are your math grades: 100, 69, 88, 87, 96, 97, 88, 89, 97, 90. You will be creating a stem-and-leaf plot of your grades.

Step 1: When you create your stem-and-leaf plot, you should always include a key. This shows the reader how to read your stem-and-leaf plot. Here are two examples:


1key1


key7


Step 2: Arrange your scores in order from least to greatest: 69, 87, 88, 88, 89, 90, 96, 97, 97, 100.

Step 3: In this stem-and-leaf plot, the digit in the tens place (and greater) is the stem, and the digit in the ones place is the leaf. We list our stems in order from least to greatest.


key3


I know what you're thinking! There are no scores in the 70s, so why is there a 7 in the stem column? When you create a stem-and-leaf plot, you have to list all of the stems in that range, in order from least to greatest. So even though there are no scores in the 70s, you still have to include the 7.

Step 4: Now let's add the leaves. The lowest score is 69. You already have the 6 in the stem column so you just have to add the 9 in the 6 row. For 87, 88, 88, and 89, you already have the 8 in the tens column, so now in the 8 row, you need to add 7, 8, 8, and 9. Since the number 88 occurs twice in your data, you have to list it twice in your stem-and-leaf plot.

Since there are no scores in the 70s, you still need to include the 7 in the stem column but the leaf row will be left blank to show that there are no scores in the 70s. Continue adding the rest of the leaves until you have included all of your math scores.


key4


You have just created a stem-and-leaf plot! Easy, right?

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