Best way to show data activity | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

What’s the best way to show the data?

Learn how to choose the best way to represent data.

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30 mins
Thought starter


This activity has been designed to help your students develop skills related to the processing and analyzing data and information competencies and can be used whenever students are representing data.


What you'll need

  • "Choosing the best way to represent data" handout, at least one copy per group
  • "Energy use by season" handout, at least one copy per group
  • "Assessing my ability to choose the most effective representation" rubric, one copy per student

  1. Organize your students in pairs and provide each group with a copy of the "Choosing the best way to represent data" handout. 
  2. To begin the activity, survey the class to find out how many of the students have birthdays in the spring, summer, fall, or winter. Prompt groups to record the data on their handout. 
  3. Briefly explain that their challenge is to decide which way or format would be the best for representing the data about the class birthdays. Guide groups in reviewing the purposes of each of the four types of formats. 
  4. Invite groups to make a decision: Which of the four ways or formats of representing the data would be the most effective? Which would be the least effective? Guide students in using the ranking ladder on the handout to rank the formats from most to least effective. 
  5. Encourage groups to share their rankings with the class. As they share their decisions and thinking, help them to identify a set of criteria for assessing the effectiveness of a representation. An effective representation:
  • Matches the purpose of the data
  • Is clear and easy to understand
  • Is accurate
  1. Ask groups to revisit their rankings, this time using the criteria to guide their thinking. Guide students in seeing that some of the representations might meet some of the criteria, but not others. For example, a line graph might be accurate but it doesn’t match the purpose of the data (the data doesn’t show trends over time). 
  2. Provide each group with a copy of the "Energy use by season" handout and invite your students to make a decision: which of the four representations most effectively shows energy use across the seasons? Encourage students to compare the representations and to rank them from most to least effective considering the criteria identified earlier.
  3. To conclude the activity, prompt students to suggest examples from science and other subjects where each of the four formats might be the most effective representation. 

Curriculum Fit

Grade 5, 6 Science

Curricular competency

Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Construct and use a variety of methods, including tables, graphs, and digital technologies, as appropriate, to represent patterns or relationships in data 


Invite each student to complete a copy of the "Assessing my ability to choose the most effective representation" rubric.

Evaluate students’ ability to:

  • Describe the purposes of various forms of representing data
  • Use criteria to guide their selection of an effective form for representing data

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