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Comparing and interpreting data

This activity requires pupils to plot and compare data.

The activity addresses several of the National Curriculum (England and Wales) requirements for Using, Applying and Handling Data at Key Stage 3, in particular: 


  • Interpret, discuss and synthesize information presented in a variety of forms. 


  • Apply mathematical reasoning, explaining and justifying inferences and deductions.
  • Recognise the limitations of any assumptions, and that varying the assumptions, could have on conclusions drawn from the data analysis. 

Processing and Representing Data 

  • Draw and produce, using paper and ICT, diagrams for continuous data, including line graphs for time series. 

Interpreting and discussing results 

  • Have a basic understanding of correlation.

Teachers in Scotland will find that this activity supports Mathematics
5-14, Information Handling, level E - F 

Strands: Collecting Information 

  • Organising Information
  • Displaying Information
  • Interpreting information 

The data used has been drawn from the RSPB's Species Action Plan for the starling (unpublished) and A Management Guide to Birds of Lowland Farmland. 

Pupils are required to explore the link between the decline in the amount of permanent pastureland, and the decline in starling populations in the countryside. 

'Unimproved Permanent Pasture' is grassy fields that are grazed by livestock, but not ploughed or fertilised by the farmer, over a period of time. These pastures contain lots of insects and seeds for starlings, which would disappear if the fields were 'improved' by adding fertiliser and pesticides. Not only is the amount of pasture land decreasing in the UK - the type of pasture land which starlings prefer ('unimproved') is decreasing too. 


Student Data Tables
Activity Sheet
Graph paper
Tracing paper 

Age Range 

Key Stage 3, year 9. 

The Activity 

Using the Student Data Tables provided, pupils are asked to plot the decline in the amount of permanent pasture and, separately, the decline in starling population. By copying the starling graph on to tracing paper to create an overlay, pupils can compare the trends and discuss possible links. 

More able pupils can forecast the result of this trend continuing for the next five years. 

Pupils could plot the graphs using ICT skills by copying the data tables into a spreadsheet package.