Lesson 8

Describing Distributions on Histograms

Lesson Narrative

In this lesson, students explore various shapes and features of a distribution displayed in a histogram. They use the structure (MP7) to look for symmetry, peaks, clusters, gaps, and any unusual values in histograms. Students also begin to consider how these features might affect how we characterize a data set. For example, how might we describe what is typical in a distribution that shows symmetry? What about in a distribution that has one peak that is not symmetrical? This work is informal, but helps to prepare students to better understand measures of center and spread later in the unit. Students also distinguish between the uses and construction of bar graphs and histograms in this lesson. 

Learning Goals

Teacher Facing

  • Compare and contrast (orally) bar graphs and histograms, recognizing that descriptions of shape, center, and spread don’t pertain to bar graphs.
  • Describe (orally and in writing) the overall shape and features of a distribution represented on a histogram, including peaks, clusters, gaps, and symmetry.
  • Identify histograms that display distributions with specific features.

Student Facing

Let's describe distributions displayed in histograms.

Required Preparation

Print and cut up cards from the Sorting Histograms blackline master.  Prepare 1 set of cards for every 3–4 students.

The Getting to School activity requires students to use data previously collected on their travel methods and times. Organize the data into the tables in the blackline master ahead of time or allow time for students to do it themselves. Either make a copy for every 2 students, or display the completed tables for all to see during the activity.

Learning Targets

Student Facing

  • I can describe the shape and features of a histogram and explain what they mean in the context of the data.
  • I can distinguish histograms and bar graphs.

CCSS Standards


Building Towards

Print Formatted Materials

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Additional Resources

Google Slides

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PowerPoint Slides

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