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Experiencing variation

Variation is how 'spread out' the data are. It can also be called dispersion or scatteredness.

Variation is seen in raw data as they are collected, in summary tables and of course in many kinds of graphical representations. Research has shown that variation is the first characteristic of data that young students recognise.

The stacked dot plot below, generated using TinkerPlots software, shows variation in the arm spans of 60 students.

Dot plot shows minimum 145 cm, maximum 187 cm with an approximately normal distribution, peak at 165 cm.

Arm spans of 60 Australian students.

Curriculum links

Year 3: Identify questions or issues for categorical variables. Identify data sources and plan methods of data collection and recording

Year 3: Conduct chance experiments, identify and describe possible outcomes and recognise variation in results