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CensusAtSchool Australia

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Back to CensusAtSchool home page CaSQ 3B - Numerical Data: What’s The Difference Between Discrete and Continuous?

You can download this activity as a rich text file (RTF) using the link at the bottom of the page.


Data can be classified into two different types.
Values or observations that can be sorted into groups or categories.
Bar charts and pie graphs are used to graph categorical data.
Values or observations that can be measured. And these numbers can be placed in ascending or descending order. Scatter plots and line graphs are used to graph numerical data.
Values or observations can be assigned a code in the form of a number where the numbers are simply labels. You can count but not order or measure nominal data. Examples: Sex, and eye colour.
Values or observations can be ranked (put in order) or have a rating scale attached. You can count and order, but not measure, ordinal data. Example: house numbers and swimming level.
Values or observations that is counted as distinct and separate and can only take particular values. Examples: the number of kittens in a litter; number of threads in a sheet, number of stars given for an energy rating.
You can measure continuous data. Values or observations may take on any value within a finite or infinite interval. Examples: height, time and temperature.


1. Place a ‘D’ for ‘discrete’ or ‘C’ for ‘continuous’ next to each of the following topics of questions from the CensusAtSchool online questionnaire

_______ Arm span

_______ How much money did you earn last week?

_______ Concentration exercise (seconds)

_______ Dominant hand reaction time

2. Write down four examples of discrete data.

1. ___________________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________________

4. ___________________________________________________________________

3. A CensusAtSchool question asks you to select a value between 1 and 1000 on the importance of various social and environmental issues. Decide whether this data would be discrete or continuous, and give reasons for your decision.

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Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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