What is Discrete Data in Math? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will introduce you to discrete data, including its definition. You'll also see how we can find discrete data all around us in our everyday lives and organize it into tables and graphs.

What is Discrete Data?

Have you ever been asked how many questions you got right on yesterday's spelling test? Or how many kids are in your class? Or how many times a baseball player hit a home run? You probably don't even know it, but you're collecting discrete data every time you answer these kinds of questions!

So what does this mean? Data is information we collect. Data can be numbers or pictures. Discrete data is a special kind of data because each value is separate and different. There are two questions you can ask when deciding if data is discrete:

  • Can you count it?
  • Can it be divided up into smaller and smaller parts?

Discrete data cannot be measured. Since you measure your weight on a scale, it is not discrete data. Since you use a ruler to measure how long something is, length is not discrete data either.

How Can You Spot Discrete Data?

Let's revisit the questions about yesterday's spelling test, the number of kids in your class, and the number of home runs hit by a baseball player and see why they involve discrete data.

Number of Test Questions

Let's say your teacher gives you a spelling test with ten words. You studied really hard, did your best, and got nine out of ten questions right. Well done! When you get home, your mom or dad may ask you how many questions you got right. If they do, your parents are actually collecting discrete data. The number of questions you answered correctly can be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10.

Number of Kids in Your Class

The number of kids in your class is also an example of discrete data. You can count each one of them, and you can't have half a kid!

Number of Home Runs

If you wanted to find out which baseball players had the most home runs ever during their careers and how many runs they hit, you'd be looking for discrete data. It turns out that there are three players who hit more than 700 home runs during the course of their careers: Babe Ruth hit 714, Hank Aaron hit 755, and Barry Bonds hit the most ever with 762.

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