Stem and Leaf Plot Activities

Stem and Leaf Plot Activities

Original Photo Credit: David M. Goehring


Having trouble learning stem and leaf plots? Try some activities!


If you are trying to learn stem and leaf plots, here are a few activities you can do to help understand the topic better.Whether you are a student trying to grasp a topic, a teacher trying to engage with your students, or a parent or tutor trying to give good examples, activities are always a way you can make a topic stick with a student.

Stem and Leaf Plot Individual Activity Ideas

  • Plot the scores of your favorite sport events

Grab a television remote control and tune in to your favorite sports news channel. Alternatively you can pull your favorite sports website. Pick a sport, and begin writing down each team’s score in their latest games/matches. After you have recorded the scores from your favorite division, league, etc. put them on a stem and leaf plot.

Note: You must use ONE sport only. Sports differ greatly in their typical scores, so be consistent.

  • Roll or toss a small object at a target

Find something sturdy in the room with you. If you cannot find anything specific, just use the wall itself. This is your target. Take a small object (preferably something that is NOT round or bouncy) and use as your marker. Now move to the other side of the room and mark a rolling or tossing point. The object of this activity is to toss or roll the marker object as close to the target as possible (similar objective as bocce ball, lawn darts, etc.). Each time you your marker lands, use a ruler to mark how far it was from the target. Do this 10, 20, or 30 times. Plot each measurement on a stem and leaf plot.

Note: It makes no difference how specific you are with your measurements. You can use inches or centimeters, and you can even use decimals. Be creative but be consistent!

Stem and Leaf Plot Group Activity Ideas

  • Measure the height of everyone in the group

This activity works best with a classroom of people, but any group will work. The objective is simple, measure everyone’s height with a ruler, meter stick, etc. Plot the results on a stem and leaf plot. If there are more than 20 people in the group, mix it up by having half the people plot their results in inches, the other half in centimeters. Or, if you have a smaller group, have everyone measured twice and create two plots.

  • Measure the distance that everyone in the group can jump (from a standstill)

Elite athletes often measure their athletic performance in standard ways so that they can judge their overall athletic improvement. One such method is called a “broad jump.” Have each group member stand with their toes at one line and have them jump as far forward as they can. In order for the jump to count, they must jump from both feet and land without falling or taking extra steps. Measure from the launch point to the back of their closest foot. If you have a small group, have them jump again. Record all measurements on a stem and leaf plot. If you have a large marker board, have each member write their own measurements on the plot (allowing room for other people to place their scores). This encourages teamwork and allows them to understand the importance of placing the data in order.

Stem and Leaf Plot Activity Tips

When you  are doing these activities, notice how important it is to be consistent. Be consistent with what you measure and record. A plot that combines last night’s soccer scores (typically 0, 1, 2, or 3 points per team) with last night’s basketball scores (typically between 70 – 95 points) will look silly and not tell you much. There will be many empty stems and the plot is not consistent.

Also, with measurements it is important to include the units of measure. It makes no difference if your measurements are in inches, meters, centimeters, etc. as long as you are consistent. A plot that combines inch measurements with centimeter measurements is incorrect and confusing.

Title is important! The way you title your stem and leaf plot is crucial. You must describe what the plot represents. You cannot label a graph “sports scores” or “distance.” You must say “basketball scores” or “jumping distance measurements.” The goal is for someone to be able to know exactly what the plot represents. Remember, a person who reads the plot later on probably did not witness the measurement or data collection.

Do not forget the key! A proper key tells the reader what a typical stem and leaf entry represents. Just like the title, it must be descriptive enough that anyone will know what the leaves mean (and units).

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