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What is Data?

What is Data?

We all know what “data” is- a collection of information of values. But what does it mean in the world of mathematics? Data can take various forms, including numbers. However, in math, data is used to describe the information used and provided by mathematical equations and operations. It is often analyzed to draw conclusions, show results, or understand a pattern.  Let’s take a deeper look!

Qualitative & Quantitative

Qualitative data describes qualities or characteristics that are non-numerical in nature. This can be colors, categories, shapes, etc. Qualitative data is used more often in statistics.

Quantitative data describes quantities: numerical values that can be measured or counted. This can be a measurement, quantity of an item, price, etc. Quantitative data can also be categorized into two different categories:

Discrete data: Only certain values, like whole numbers. Discrete data is counted.

Continuous data: Can take any value within a range. Continuous data is measured.

Qualitative and quantitative data are very different yet complement each other. They are both crucial to conducting a successful data analysis.

How to Collect Data

The easiest way to collect data is through observation. You can sit in your front yard and count cars as they pass by. You can pour out all the candy in a bag and count them one by one.

Data can also be collected through a survey. A survey allows you to ask a list of questions to an individual (or group of people) to collect all the data at once.

Two different forms of surveying include:

Census: Collecting data from every individual in the group

Sample: Collecting data from certain individuals in the group

A census is asking every student in the class the same questions. A sample is asking just the left (or right) side of the classroom the questions. A census is more accurate than a sample but it is best to keep in mind that both are used for different purposes in mathematics and statistics.

Before you start collecting data, however, be sure to think and review what is needed for your research. Create a checklist to help you determine the best method to collect the data the right way for your needs.

Is Data Plural?

While “data” is commonly used for all amounts of data, that is technically incorrect. The singular form of “data” is “datum”. So you would refer to the answer to one question from one person as the datum, but the answer to a series of questions (like a survey) as data. Since data is plural, you could then present it as “The data are available” but since data is a collection of information you could still present it as “The data is available” too.

Show Me the Data

Data can be organized to be shown in a variety of graphs, charts, and plots. Depending on the data and what it will be used for, you will select the best format. There are many formats for organizing data, so here are just a few:

Bar Graph

Bar graphs allow you to display the data using bars of different heights symbolizing the quantity of the data.

Pie Chart

Pie charts allow you to display that same data but in “pie slices” showing relative data collectively creating one full “pie”.

Dot Plot

These plots are similar to bar graphs but use dots instead of a bar to represent the data.

Line Graph

This type of graph shows data that are connected in some way ( by time, distance, etc.) by connecting the data points with lines to further show the fluctuation of data.


A histogram is similar to a bar graph but it groups numbers into ranges. The height of each bar will show how many fall into each range.


Pictographs are a fun and creative way to show data using images, such as oranges. It may look similar to a dot plot but instead of dots, you can use an image of an orange.

Scatter (XY) Plot

A scatter plot will show you the relationship between two sets of data. For example, if you need to keep track of the number of cars sold in relation to the temperature outside, you would use the X and Y axes to represent the number of cars sold and the temperature, respectively. You will then use dots to mark the information and typically this will allow you to find a trend or pattern.

Data presentation is important to help people understand the importance of the analysis and results. If data is not presented in the right format, it may not be useful or easy to understand.

At Online Math Center

Who would have thought there was more to data than meets the eye? However, it does not stop there. Data is a crucial piece of statistics. As high school students prepare to learn about statistics, they will become more skilled at identifying where these graphs & charts are most necessary. Getting your kids the practice they need to excel at this topic does not have to be a chore.

At Online Math Center, we have years of experience helping high school students grasp concepts such as these. In our tailored one-to-one tutoring lessons, students get the attention they deserve and the opportunity to focus on the topics they’re struggling with. We also offer prep classes for the Math SAT and math competitions, as well as classes aimed at high school students.

Take the stress out of your child’s math education and contact OMC today to enroll them in a tutoring program tailored to their specific needs.

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