Everyday maths 1 (Wales)
Everyday maths 1 (Wales)

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Everyday maths 1 (Wales)

3 Pictograms

One very simple way of showing data is in pictograms, which use pictures to count with. Pictograms have a strong visual impact.

As with tables, you need to decide on your title and what each row of the pictogram means. You also need to decide on your key. The key tells your reader what the picture you are using means.

The following pictogram shows the number of cars using a car wash at different times during the week:

Described image
Figure 7 Car wash pictogram

The important thing to remember with pictograms is that there must be a key to tell the reader what the picture means. In the example above, the picture of one car means one car used the car wash. But in the next example, showing the number of people buying petrol from a garage between 2 and 3 p.m. on a Sunday and Monday afternoon, the key is used differently:

Described image
Figure 8 Petrol pictogram

Every pictogram needs a key – but this one doesn’t have one! You might think that An illustration of a petrol pump. means one person buying petrol.

In fact, An illustration of a petrol pump. means four people buying petrol and An illustration of three-quarters of a petrol pump. means three people buying petrol.

Now try the following activity. Remember to check your answers once you have completed the questions.

Activity 8: Deciphering a key

Can you work out what An illustration of half of a petrol pump. and An illustration of one quarter of a petrol pump. mean?


An illustration of half of a petrol pump. means two people buying petrol and An illustration of one quarter of a petrol pump. means one person buying petrol.

So the key can be used to show more than one item. This could be done to make the drawing of the pictogram easier when working with bigger numbers.

It is important to make sure you understand what the key means so that you can understand the data correctly.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using pictograms. On the one hand, they are easy to understand. On the other hand, however, they can only show a few things.

Activity 9: Creating a pictogram

The following table shows the number of people queueing at a local post office at different times of the day:

Time Number
9 a.m. 4
11 a.m. 2
1 p.m. 7
3 p.m. 1
5 p.m. 3

Show this information as a pictogram using an appropriate key, for example where an envelope represents two people.


Does your pictogram look like the one below?

Described image
Figure 9 Post office pictogram


In this section you have learned about how to present data in pictograms.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371