TES Maths: Inspect the spec - scatter diagrams

Craig Barton
24th November 2016
TES Maths, inspect the spec, GCSE, new specification, scatter graphs, scatter diagrams, correlation, causation, data, secondary, KS4, Year 10, Year 11

Top tips and resources to help you to teach scatter diagrams as part of the new GCSE specification

Everyone is talking about functions and frequency trees, but what else has changed with the advent of the new specification? And what resources are available to help? Throughout this series, TES Maths aims to find out.

What does the specification say?

The expectation is that:

  • All students will develop confidence and competence with the content identified by standard type
  • All students will be assessed on the content identified by the standard and the underlined type; more highly attaining students will develop confidence and competence with all of this content
  • Only the more highly attaining students will be assessed on the content identified by bold type. The highest attaining students will develop confidence and competence with the bold content.

S6: Use and interpret scatter graphs of bivariate data; recognise correlation and know that it does not indicate causation; draw estimated lines of best fit; make predictions; interpolate and extrapolate apparent trends whilst knowing the dangers of so doing

What's the same?

Scatter diagrams have always been a staple of GCSE maths and continue to feature in the new specification. Thankfully, many of the requirements remain the same. So, students will still be expected to be able to plot the graph, recognise the correlation, describe the correlation in the context of the question, draw lines of best fit and use these lines of best fit to make predictions.

What has changed?

There are two extra skills that both foundation and higher students must master in order to conquer scatter diagrams.

Firstly, in addition to being able to recognise correlation, students will need to understand that the correlation does not necessarily indicate causation.

Secondly, students must be able to “interpolate and extrapolate apparent trends whilst knowing the dangers of so doing”. Both of these concepts can be found in AS statistics. Once again, this reflects the increased level of challenge in the new GCSE, as well as a preference for description, interpretation and understanding, rather than just mechanical calculations.

How can TES Maths can help?

As ever, the wonderfully talented authors of the TES Maths community have stepped up to the mark to lend a hand. Here is a selection of my favourite resources to help support the teaching of this topic:

  1. Introduction to scatter graphs and diagrams
    TES Author Pixi_17 takes students through the basics of plotting and interpreting scatter graphs in this fully differentiated lesson.
  2. Taking scatter diagrams further
    Dr Frost adds a level of challenge to this complete lesson, in which students make predications about real-life data based on the strength of the correlation.
  3. Correlation and cause
    Despite being designed for science classes, this lesson outlining some of the dangers of attributing causation to correlations is perfect for the new GCSE.
  4. Scatter graphs lesson with practice questions
    Get straight down to the business of consolidating students' understanding of scatter graphs by distributing these booklets, which contain pre-drawn axes.
  5. Correlation Street problem-solving
    In this engaging task, students practise their scatter graph skills by helping well-known Weatherfield residents with their various data issues.


Craig Barton, TES Maths adviser

Craig is a secondary maths teacher in the North of England.


Find more resources to support the changes to the GCSE maths specification by taking a look at the rest of the series.

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