Reading and Making Statistics Tables

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12885

64% of people don't know how to use a statistics table. How do we know? We don't, but if we had done some research, we would know. Learn to benefit from using statistics tables for real!


People and Their Environment, Statistics and Probability

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Take a look at this National Center for Education Statistics Table 330.20.

Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control and level of institution and state or jurisdiction: 2016-17 and 2017-18

  • What information can you learn from this table?

It's OK; you're going to learn how to read and benefit from tables like this!

  • Have you ever had to work with statistics before?
  • What does this term mean to you?
  • How are statistics used?

Write down what you already know about statistics on paper.

Statistics are pieces of data. The NCES table above is called a statistics table. Statistics tables are used to display a lot of data about a particular topic in an organized way.

It may seem unclear when you first look at a statistics table. There are so many numbers!

  • What could they all mean?

Reading a statistics table can be easy using a few basic steps.

Write down the four steps you should use to read a statistics table while you read Steps in Reading a Statistics Table.

The steps for reading a statistics table are listed below.

  1. Identify the topic of the table. (The document says to identify the population being studied, but statistics tables are not always about a population. So, it is best to identify the topic of the table.)
  2. Identify the variable(s) presented in the table.
  3. Identify the measuring unit(s) used (frequencies, percentages, rates, etc.).
  4. Read the information presented in the table cells.

Apply these steps to help you read the National Center for Education Statistics Table 330.20, which can also be found under the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Click on the steps below for help.

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Now that you know how to read a statistics table, answer the following questions.

  • Have you seen or used a statistics table before today? If so, describe your experience(s) with statistics tables.
  • What is a scenario where it would be useful to have a statistics table?
  • What could you make a statistics table about? Make a list of as many different topics as you can think of.

Keep your responses to these questions nearby. You will use what you wrote to help you with an activity in the Go! section.

Statistics tables are a simplified way of displaying and reading data. Just think what it would be like if all the data in the table above were displayed on different pieces of paper or in different places. It would be challenging to read and even more challenging to interpret and comprehend the information being presented.

When you are ready, move on to the Got It? section to continue practicing reading statistics tables.

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