Back to basics: continuous Vs. Discrete variables and their importance in Data Visualization.


Take a look at the following chart, do you see any issues with it?

month trend chart line chart string to date

Notice that the month values are shown as “distinct” values instead of shown as a “continuous” values and it misleads the person looking at the chart.  Agree? Great! You already know based on your instincts what continuous and discrete values are, it’s just that we will need to label what you already know.

In the example used above, the “Date & Time” shown as a “Sales Date” is a continuous value since you can’t never say the “Exact” time that the event occurred…1/1/2008 22 hours, 15 minutes, 7 seconds, 5 milliseconds…and it goes on…it’s continuous.

But let’s say you wanted to see Number of Units Sold Vs Product Name. now that’s countable, isn’t it? You can say that we sold 150 units of Product X and 250 units of product Y. In this case, Units sold becomes discrete value.

The chart shown above was treating Sales Date as discrete values and hence causing confusion…let’s fix it since now you the difference between continuous and discrete variables:

Statistics Discrete Continuos Variable Data Visualization


To develop effective data visualizations, it’s important to understand the data types of your data. In this post, you saw the difference between continuous and discrete variables and their importance in data visualization.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.