Identifying data types in tables

A table can present data in 1 of 2 ways and depending on how the data is presented, the student’s response will need to vary in the lexical resources it uses. Let’s look at examples of the 2 manners in which a table can present data:

1 – Static data/cyclical data
Static data (such as a menu) and cyclical data (such as a bus schedule) present data that does not evolve or change over time. For example, the data presented on a menu never evolves and the data presented in a bus schedule repeats but never really changes.

When describing these kinds of tables, we often use language that denotes its static or cyclical nature and will thus typically speak in present tense.


World’s 10 most populous countries

China 1,341,000,000
India 1,210,193,422
United States 311,086,000
Indonesia 237,556,363
Brazil 190,732,694
Pakistan 175,626,000
Nigeria 158,259,000
Bangladesh 150,308,000
Russia 142,905,200
Japan 127,960,000

To describe this table, we would use comparative phrases like:


There exists a huge difference between the first 2 entries and the remaining 8.
China is bigger than the US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh combined.
Russia, although geographically largest, is only a fraction the population of China or India.

2 – Trending data
Tables that present trending data pull from alternate lexical resources. Take the following table as an example:

Canadian Population Growth

1985 27,233,000
1990 29,084,342
1995 31,788,000
2000 32,230,700
2005 33,893,000
2010 34,567,300

Because this data presents trends, the nature of the language we use to describe it changes. In our description of this data, we would need to accurately depict the way the data changes and this requires more than comparative sentences written in the simple present tense. Here, our language would vary. The following are some examples regarding how to describe the trends present in the above table:


The Canadian population sees a faster overall climb between 1985 and 1995 than between 1995 and 2010.
Between 1995 and 2010, the population of Canada grew gradually and at a somewhat steady pace to roughly 34 and a half million people.
In Canada, the population appears to have grown by more than 7 million people in a 25-year time span.

As you can see, the lexical resources and written structures we use to describe static/cyclical and trending data are different.

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