Name: Jeanette Sovick
Who is asking: Parent
Level: Elementary

My 5th grade son brought home a math paper, the title of which reads, Reading Stem-and-Leaf Plots...can you explain this so I can explain it to him...There is no book, his teacher just sent this practice sheet home for him to complete and I have no clue! Thank you

Jeanette Sovick

Hi Jeanette

A stem and leaf plot is a method for presenting a data set in a "graphical" representation that maintains all the data. Suppose that a math test has the following grades.

65, 54, 76, 72, 71, 83, 72, 92, 60, 42, 73, 84, 72, 97, 72, 91, 53, 63, 84, 85

To construct a stem and leaf plot first sort the data in order

42, 53, 54, 60, 63, 65, 71, 72, 72, 72, 72, 73, 76, 83, 84, 84, 85, 91, 92, 97

In a stem and leaf plot for this data the leading digits (10's digits) form the stem and the trailing digits (units digits) form the leaves. Here the stem is formed by the digits 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Filling in the leaves gives

This gives a very nice way of presenting the data as all the numbers are maintained and yet you can see the "shape" of the grade distribution.

If the data consists of three digit numbers you may need to construct the stem from the leading two digits, but I hope this example illustrates the idea behind the stem and leaf plot.


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