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CIE A-Level Maths Study Notes

4.1.1 Selection of Data Presentation Methods

This section explores the criteria for selecting appropriate data presentation methods and provides an in-depth discussion on the merits and limitations of various data representation types.

Criteria for Choosing Data Presentation Methods

  • Purpose of Data: Select method based on whether you're showing trends, comparisons, or distributions.
  • Nature of Data: Whether it's qualitative/quantitative or continuous/discrete matters.
  • Audience Understanding: Use simpler methods for audiences less familiar with statistics.
  • Simplicity vs Detail: Aim for a balance between being detailed and being clear.

Data Representation Pros and Cons

Bar Charts

  • Pros: Easy to make and understand. Good for discrete categories.
  • Cons: Not for continuous data. Can mislead if scales vary.


Bar Chart


  • Pros: Great for continuous data distributions. Shows frequency within ranges.
  • Cons: Requires understanding bin sizes. Not for categorical data.



Pie Charts

  • Pros: Visually good for showing proportions. Good for parts of a whole.
  • Cons: Not great for many categories. Hard to compare multiple pie charts.


Pie Chart

Scatter Plots

  • Pros: Shows variable relationships and trends.
  • Cons: Can be complex. Not for individual data point representation.


Scatter Plot

Line Graphs

  • Pros: Excellent for trends over time. Can show multiple data sets.
  • Cons: Not for categorical data. Cluttered with too many points.


Line Graph

Example Questions

Example 1: Monthly Rainfall in London Over a Year

  • Problem: Choose a method to show London's monthly rainfall.
  • Data: Monthly rainfall in millimeters.
    • Choice: Line graph for continuous data and trend illustration.
    • Why: Shows data flow over time and highlights rainfall variations.
    • Graph Details: X-axis for months, Y-axis for rainfall in millimeters. Line connects monthly rainfall, with markers for each month.
    • Conclusion: The line graph effectively shows London's monthly rainfall changes.
Line Graph

Example 2: Distribution of Marks in a Class Test

  • Problem: Find the best way to show mark distribution in a test.
  • Analysis: Marks are continuous numerical data.
    • Choice: Histogram for distribution.
    • Calculation: Plot histogram with test marks.
    • Interpretation: Histogram shows mark frequency, indicating class performance trends.
    • Conclusion: The histogram clearly shows the distribution of test marks, helping understand class performance.
Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa avatar
Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa
Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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