We often collect data to answer questions about something. The data we collect may show variability, which means the data values are not all the same.
Some data sets have more variability than others. Here are two sets of figures.
Set A has more figures with the same shape, color, or size. Set B shows more figures with different shapes, colors, or sizes, so set B has greater variability than set A.
Both numerical and categorical data can show variability. Numerical sets can contain different numbers, and categorical sets can contain different categories or types.
When a question can only be answered by using data and we expect that data to have variability, we call it a statistical question. Here are some examples.
- Who is the most popular musical artist at your school?
- When do students in your class typically eat dinner?
- Which classroom in your school has the most books?
To answer the question about books, we may need to count all of the books in each classroom of a school. The data we collect would likely show variability because we would expect each classroom to have a different number of books.
In contrast, the question “How many books are in your classroom?” is not a statistical question. If we collect data to answer the question (for example, by asking everyone in the class to count books), the data can be expected to show the same value. Likewise, if we ask all of the students at a school where they go to school, that question is not a statistical question because the responses will all be the same.