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Parents, caregivers and teachers: Explore this page for at-home or distance learning activities.

Describing and Comparing Data Distributions

Activity Description


Students will use data on the organization, spending, and populations of governments at different levels (city or town, county, and state) to compare and contrast the distributions of these variables in graphs, analyzing the shape, center, and spread of each.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

50 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to compare and contrast data distributions in terms of shape, center, and spread.
  • Students will be able to describe key features of a histogram or box plot.

Materials Required

  • The student version of this activity, 11 pages
  • Calculators
  • Graph paper

A graphing calculator or other graphing technology and a teacher computer with a projector are optional.

Activity Items

The following items are part of this activity. The items, their data sources, and any relevant instructions for viewing the source data online appear at the end of this teacher version.

  • Population, Land Area, and Other Data for the 50 U.S. States and District of Columbia
  • Income, Employment, and Other Demographic Data for the 50 U.S. States and District of Columbia

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will analyze histograms and box plots to describe and compare data distributions, deciding the appropriate summary statistics to report and investigating their own questions.


High School Math


  • Box plots
  • Histograms

Skills Taught

  • Comparing and contrasting the shapes of data distributions
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