Middle School Statistics

What can LSU Football Teach Us About Box and Whisker Plots?

This weekend’s big college football game on TV featured LSU.  They do something at their stadium which is a bit unusual.  Can you detect it?


Did you notice it?  LSU is one of just a handful of schools who paint their yard lines every 5 yards, rather than 10.



Is one method, counting by 5’s rather than by 10’s, “better” than the other?  Both methods communicate the field position effectively.  I would argue that counting by 5’s causes the field to look more cluttered, and no doubt effects the paint budget.  But there is no clear advantage to either method.

This is the same discussion we have with students when working to establish a scale for statistical displays like box-and-whisker and histogram.  Should we count by 5’s?  By 10’s?  Does it really matter, if the communication is clear?

In every class, I always seem to have a student who wants to propose a non-traditional scale.  Could we have our axis count by 7’s?  Sure, but would the communication suffer as a result?  It would probably suffer in the same manner as football fans scratching their heads if we painted the field lines every 7 yards….


Or what about the student who wants to use the 5-number summary as their axis markings?  Let’s hire them to line the football field next time….

Goofy Lining

It’s all about the communication, and details matter.  If we don’t pay attention to details, then we get un-desirable results, like this logo painted on a Minnesota football field.


Use football field photos to discuss scale, and discuss the pros and cons of 5’s vs 10’s!


By Bob Lochel

HS Math Teacher. Hatboro-Horsham School District, Horsham, PA.

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