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Stem and Leaf Plots

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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Introduction to Stem and Leaf Plots

Statistics need to be often displayed graphically to be able to read the data and analyse it easily. There are several ways to represent statistical data graphically. These include bar graphs, histograms, line graphs, column charts, line charts, pie charts, pivot tables, scatter charts, treemaps, stem and leaf plots, etc. 

Displaying statistical data visually or Data visualization is a useful way to provide accessible ways to analyze patterns trends across a large set of data. These are used by data scientists, governments, climatologists, etc to record data and represent it graphically for easier analysis.

Stem and leaf plots are one such way of representing data in an easier and convenient way. Stem and leaf plots have several advantages that make them very handy for the purpose of analyzing large sets of data easily. 

A basic understanding of different ways of data visualization comes in handy in all fields. Stem and leaf plots are a method of displaying data horizontally in two columns. They look very simple and can be used to display a huge set of data.

On this page, you will understand the meaning of stem and leaf plots. You will also get to know how these are plotted. You will be further introduced to another type of stem and leaf plot called the two-sided or back t back stem and leaf plot. We’ll also make Stem and Leaf Plots to display data distributions with the help of a few examples. In the given examples, you’ll get to know how to organize the data and to use the stem-and-leaf plot concept to obtain answers to interesting questions.


Lastly, any questions that you may have regarding the stem and leaf plots will also be answered. Refer to the official website of Vedantu or download the app for an elaborate and comprehensive explanation.


Stem and Leaf Plot Definition

The Stem and Leaf plot is a way of organizing data into a form that makes it easy to see the frequency of different values. In other words, we can say that a Stem and Leaf Plot is a table in which each data value is split into a “stem” and a “leaf.” The “stem” is the left-hand column that has the tens of digits. The “leaves” are listed in the right-hand column, showing all the ones digit for each of the tens, the twenties, thirties, and forties.

Remember that Stem and Leaf plots are a pictorial representation of grouped data, but they can also be called a modal representation. Because, by quick visual inspection at the Stem and Leaf plot, we can determine the mode.


Steps for Making Stem-and-Leaf Plots

  • First, determine the smallest and largest number in the data.

  • Identify the stems.

  • Draw a with two columns and name them as “Stem” and “Leaf”.

  • Fill in the leaf data.

  • Remember, a Stem and Leaf plot can have multiple sets of leaves.

Let us understand with an example: 

Consider we have to make a Stem and Leaf plot for the data: 71,  43,  65,  76,  98,  82,  95,  83,  84,  96.

We’ll use the tens digits as the stem values and the one’s digits as the leaves. For better understanding, let’s order the list, but this is optional:

43,  65,  71,  76,  82,  83,  84,  95,  96,  98.

Now, let’s draw a table with two columns and mark the left-hand column as “Stem” and the right-hand column as “Leaf”.









1  6 


2  3  4


5  6  8 


The above is one of the simple cases for Stem and Leaf plots. 


Stem "4" Leaf "3" means 43.

Stem "7" Leaf "6" means 76.

Stem "9" Leaf "6" means 96.


What if we Have to Make a Stem and Leaf Plot for Decimals?

If we have a number like 13.4, we will make “13” the Stem and “4” the Leaf. That’s right, the decimal doesn’t matter. Since the decimal will be in place of the vertical line separating the Stem and Leaf, we don’t have to worry about it.


Activity on Stem and Leaf Plot

Now that you have an idea about stem and leaf plots, can you answer the following questions, considering the data given? Let’s see.




4 5 


5 7 


8 6 


9 1 7 4

  1. What are the leaf numbers for stem 3?

  2. What are the data values for stem 3?

  3. What are the data values for stem 0?

  4. List the data values greater than 30.


1. First, look at the left-hand “Stems” column and locate stem 3. Then we'll look at the corresponding numbers in the right-hand “Leaves” column. The numbers are 8 and 6.

2. Combining the stem value of 3 with the corresponding numbers 8 and 6 in the right-hand ''Leaves'' column, using the information in part (1) of the Question above, we found the following data values for stem 3 are 38 and 36.

3. The row where the stem = 1 gives us leaves = 4 and 5.

Hence, the data values are obtained by combining the stem and the leaves to get 14 and 15.

The data values are 14 and 15.

4. Starting with stem = 3, we have data values of 38 and 36. Moving on to stem 4, we get corresponding data values of 49, 41, 47 and 44. That brings us to the end of the stem-and-leaf plot.

So, the data values greater than 30, according to the list above, are 38, 36, 49, 41, 47 and 44. 


Do You Know?

We can also combine and distribute data for two types of data. They are called Two-sided Stem and Leaf Plots, which are also often called back-to-back stem-and-leaf plots. With help of Two-sided Stem and Leaf Plots, we can determine Range, Median and Mode.

Other Alternatives apart from Stem and Leaf plots to organise and group data are:

  1. Frequency distribution

  2. Histogram

FAQs on Stem and Leaf Plots

1. How do Stem and Leaf Plots Work?

A stem and leaf is a table used to display data. The 'stem' on the left side displays the first digit or digits. The 'leaf' is on the right side and displays the last digit. The stem can have any number of digits whereas the leaf only carries a single digit.  The stem and leaf plot works by firstly arranging the observations in ascending order. This can be done easily by first preparing a draft of the unsorted leaves and then proceeding to arrange them in the final stem-leaf display. 

You can find several solved examples on Vedantu and even get professional help to master the topic of stem and leaf plots.

2. What Does Stem and Leaf Plot Mean?

A Stem and Leaf plot is a way of organizing data values from least to greatest using place value. Typically, the last digit from each data value becomes a "leaf" and the second digit becomes a "stem". The stem and leaf plots might appear similar to histograms but stem and leaf plots show individual points of data, unlike histograms. Such a representation helps in visualizing the distribution of the required data in a more analytical and graphical manner. The stems and leaves are then displayed in a table to easily comprehend the distribution of the frequencies of the data.

3. What's a Double Stem and Leaf Plot?

Double Stem and Leaf plots are used to compare two distributions side-by-side. This type of Double Stem and Leaf plot contains three columns, each separated by a vertical line. The double stem and leaf plot is useful in analyzing data as it allows us to visually analyze two different sets of data at the same time. it also makes it easier to compare the two distributions simultaneously. This not only saves time but also aids in visualizing the distribution easily.

4. What are the uses of stem and leaf plots in real life?

Stem and leaf plots have several uses in real-life situations where one needs to present a set of data graphically. These plots are useful to display a large amount of data easily. Therefore they can be used to display:

  • Marks of students

  • Rainfall over a period of time

  • Surveys of people's age in the city

  • Heights and weights of a large number of people in a given area

  • Temperature changes over a period.

  • Speed of wind over a set no of weeks in an area

Stem and leaf plots can be used in many other real-life situations easily.

5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using stem and leaf plots?

As can be seen, stem and leaf plots find several uses in real life. These plots are used extensively as they have several advantages. These include:

  • Stem and leaf plots are easy and convenient to use,

  • They save time and are helpful in displaying a large quantity of data.

  • They can easily represent the range of the data along with minimum and maximum values.

However, they may have a few disadvantages as well. These include:

  • They might not be very visually attractive.

  • They are helpful in displaying large quantities of data but data that has a small range can be difficult to display. This is because it gets difficult to break it into meaningful categories.

  • When displaying too much data, they might appear messy.