K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn the meaning of a stem and leaf plot.
  • identify the parts of a stem and leaf plot and what they represent.
  • create their own stem and leaf plot in a game-type format.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • White construction paper or graph paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Dice (one die per person)
  • Examples of Stem and Leaf Plots (on board or overhead)
  • One live plant that vividly shows the stem and leaf concept.


  • The teacher will introduce the concept of a stem and leaf by using visuals: a stem and leaf on a real plant. He or she will lead the students in a discussion of this concept.
  • The teacher will review place value of tens and ones.
  • The teacher will bring together the place value of numbers and the concept of a stem and leaf.


  1. Introduce the lesson by having one or more examples of stems and leaves.
  2. After discussing how the stem and leaves are connected and reviewing place value, show the students examples (about 2 or 3) of stem and leaf plots.
  3. With class participation, take the plots apart and then put them back together again.
  4. Create a class stem and leaf plot by collecting every students’ favorite two digit number between 11 and 99. Have them write their number down, hand it in, and then have it read by one student while the teacher puts the numbers on the board. From this point, the class guides the teacher in constructing their favorite numbers’ stem and leaf plot.
  5. Review quickly the parts and concept of a stem and leaf plot.
  6. Hand out paper and dice. Instruct the students to create twenty numbers by rolling their dice once for the tens place and once for the ones place. Then plot their numbers on a stem and leaf plot using colored pencils: stem-green; leaves-any color.
  7. Then have students create twenty more numbers and exchange with a partner who will create a stem and leaf plot from their partners’ numbers.
  8. Collect the students’ stem and leaf plots and display them on a giant stem, using the papers as leaves.


Assign for homework: the student will collect twenty two-digit numbers from home, stating the source of each number. They are to use five sources with no more than four numbers from each. Then they are to plot these on a stem and leaf plot. This will be taken as a grade.

The next day, you can give (as a test on overhead) some numbers and have the students plot them. There are also some end-of-grade type questions on stem and leaf plots that you can collect and administer for test purposes.

Supplemental information

From this lesson, you can move into range, medium, mean, and mode by using the students’ own stem and leaf plots.


I have personally used this lesson plan and my fourth graders loved working with the dice and creating their own stem and leaf plots. I felt I could build and expand on this lesson into several other math concepts.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • Statistics & Probability
          • 6.SP.4Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 5

  • Goal 4: Data Analysis and Probability - The learner will understand and use graphs and data analysis.
    • Objective 4.01: Collect, organize, analyze, and display data (including stem-and-leaf plots) to solve problems.