A stem and leaf plots, also known as stem plots, is a technique to categorize either continuous or discrete values. It is used to organize data as they are collected.

Stem and leaf offer a quick and novel way for simultaneously sorting and displaying data sets where each number in the data set is divided into two parts: stem (all numbers except the last digit) and a leaf (only the last digit). For example, the numbers 38 and 52, the stems are 3 and 5, while the leaves are 8 and 2.

Significance of Stem and Leaf Plot

A stem and leaf plot was developed by John Tukey an American mathematician in 1977. Stem and leaf plots are some of the best ways to not only study but track information as well. Stem and leaf plots have been around for decades are like a cross between a histogram and a check sheet . The difference with this type of graph is that it preserves the actual data and also, it is most like a frequency distribution.

Stem and leaf plots are methods for showing frequency with which certain classes of values occur. It will organize data visually and will able to interpret data and draw conclusions using the plot.

Uses of a Stem and Leaf Plot

  • Effective way to organize the data. A stem and leaf plot looks something like a bar graph .
  • Shows data in an organized way, so it can be analyzed easily.
  • Organizes data so it easy to compute the median, mode and quartiles.
  • Easy to compare different sets of data together at the same time.

How to Create a Stem-and-leaf plot

There are many different ways to create a stem and leaf plot but they all serve the same purpose at the end of the day.

  • Sort the numerical data in ascending order.
  • Analyze the data to determine stem and a leaf.
  • Draw a line and lists the possible stems in single column from lowest to highest on the left side of the line.
  • Then for each stem, record all the leaves associated with that stem. Also note that leaves are in numerical order.
  • The stem and leaf plot always have a Key, which normally describes what the entry means (stem and a leaf). It helps to read the diagram.
  • Finally, you can compute the median, mode and Quartiles.                                                      

Stem-and-leaf Example

Example: A teacher asked 23 of her male students how many books they had read in the last 4 years. Draw a stem and left diagram for following data.

32,55,12,18,23,26,24,28,44,53,27,16,14,34,29,31,41,17,11,32,54,48,45

First, Sort the numerical values in ascending order

11,12,14,16,17,18,23,24,26,27,28,29,31,32,32,34,41,44,45,48,53,54,55

Analyze the data and determine stem and a leaf : Minimum value is 11 and maximum value is 55.

Draw a line and lists the possible stems in single column from lowest to highest on the left side of the line.

Then for each stem, record all the leaves associated with that stem. Also note that leaves are in numerical order.

Key: 2|7 means 27 books

Total count values =23

  • Median: median is the middle value = n+1/2 = 23 +1/2 =12th value =29 books.
  • Mode: The number which appears most often in a set of numbers= 32 number repeated twice. Hence Mode is 32 books.
  • Q1 (Lower Quartile) = Find ¼ (n+1) =24/4=6th value is 18 books.
  • Q3 (Upper Quartile) = Find ¾(n+1)= 3*24/4= 18th value is 44 books.
  • The Quartile range = 44-18 = 26 books.

Back to Back stem-and-leaf-plot

Back to back stem and leaf diagram can be used to compare different sets of data relating to the same subject. In other words, it helps to compare different sets of data together at the same time.

Example: For the above example add 23 female students books reading data.

Sort the data in ascending order for both male and female. Then identify the stem and respective leaves for male and female.

Stem and Leaf Plots

Stem-and-leaf-plot with Decimals

There are some stem and leaf plots out there that have decimals along with it. When you are tracking your leaves, all you have to do is include the decimal points as well.

It is not that different from a normal stem and leaf plot, only in which you have to designate your stems and leaves to where you want them to begin. For instance, your stems may be the ones place while your leaves are the decimal points. It is all in how you do the graph and what numerical information you are trying to convey. Stem and leaf plots are very flexible this way.

Example: The average heights of ten high school students in inches are reported below. Draw a stem and left diagram for following students heights data.

61.2, 69.3, 58.9, 57.3, 61.8, 62.6, 66.5, 68.7, 66.6, 64.3

Stem and Leaf Plots

Stem and Leaf Plot Activities

There are many different activities in which you can involve a stem and leaf plot. For example, If there is a football game going on, you can track the number of yards someone has run; to make stem and leaf plots even more fun, you can even track the score to a video game and see who has the highest data on the plot.

There is no shortage of activities, usefulness, and fun a stem and leaf plot can achieve. It is up to you to find out the different ways to utilize them and make your own graph.

Stem-and-leaf plot Videos

Notes on Stem and Leaf Plots

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