Qualitative vs. Quantitative Observations Worksheet

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Quantitative vs Qualitative Observations

Click link for the PDF of this worksheet: Qualitative-vs-Quantititive-Observations

This is a nice review sheet to practice identifying Qualitative and Quantitive observations. Qualitative (think quality) are observations you can’t really put a number on, while Quantitative (think quantity) are observations that are measurable or have a number value. In this exercise, I have the students also underline the word(s) that help them decide if the observation is Qualitative or Quantitative.

For fun, and to review Inferences, I have the students infer what the dog is thinking as s/he listens to the human given directions 🙂


Mystery Footprints – Observation vs. Inference

Image Source: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998)


  • Updated for 2015 – Mystery Footprints – Observation vs. Inference (Google Slides Public link)
    • You can download this Google Slide Presentation in any format
      • Click “File” then “Download as” and choose ppt, etc
  • Handout for Mystery Footprint Activity (pdf)
  • projector


This is one of my favorite activities to practice making observations and inferences, it really helps the students differentiate between the two. As I mentioned in my ‘Boy in the Water‘ post, students tend to clump their observations and inferences together, they think they are the same thing.

For example, after viewing the first panel of the image, they will say that they ‘see two animals running towards each other.’ and my response is, “I don’t see two animals running towards each other, but I do see two sets of tracks”. After a few tries, they refine their answers and start to see the ‘facts’ of the image. Then we talk about the ‘story’ behind the facts.

When doing this activity, before I show them the first panel for the image, I stress how important it is not to share, or shout out, their thoughts or answers as soon as they see the image. Why is that important? Why can’t we share our answers right away? I stress to them that when they share their answers, they are taking away opportunities for their peers to think about what they are seeing.

For example, if someone asked you to name a vegetable, and I shouted out BROCCOLI, my answer would creep into everyone’s thoughts and BROCCOLI would push away any ideas about vegetables that didn’t have a chance to develop. Instead of sweet potatoes, or even yucca, you are now thinking about broccoli. It is important to let everyone have a chance to see the image, think about it, and to process and form their ideas. Their ideas may end up being the same as yours, but they may also think of something totally different. Once everyone has had a chance to process their thoughts, we can share our ideas and have a discussion where everyone can contribute and develop their thoughts further.

This activity was originally published in Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998) and the book is available as a free download. You can find more details on pages 87-89 for this lesson.

‘The Goat by the Water’ : Observation vs Inference (Originally named ‘The Boy in the Water’)

Image Source: Project Archaeology

Materials: (Updated July 28, 2017)

  • Updated worksheet for students to use for this activity (Public Google Doc)
    • Changed it from “The Boy in the Water” to the “The Goat by the Water”
    • Changed references from ‘boy’ to ‘kid’ and his/her for gender
    • my students alway bring up that we infer that it is a boy, but it could be a girl, too, and they are right!!
    • also remind them that a ‘kid’ is a baby goat, the goat in the picture has horns 😉
  • I also created Google Slides for this activity (Public)
    • improved answer key
    • also added a ‘make your own inference’ slide at the end
  • The original worksheet(pdf) for this activity is from Project Archaeology (link)

Students often have difficulty distinguishing between observations and inferences, they often combine the two into one statement. For example, when asked to make an observation using the image above some students might say: “The kid fell into the water because the branch broke.”  

Instead, they should say “there is a kid in the water” and “there is a broken branch” as two separate observations. There is no “why” in the statement. Another student may say: “The goat pushed the kid into the water when he/she was trying to pick up his/her sailboat.” This is not an easy habit to break and takes some practice.

We then discuss the difference between the facts and the “story” that goes with it. The facts are our observations and the story is how we piece the facts together, or our inference.


  • There is a kid is in the water
  • There is a goat is standing next to the water
  • There is a broken tree branch
  • There is a sailboat is floating in the water


  • The branch broke when the kid was sitting on it, and s/he fell into the water.
  • The goat butted the kid into the water when s/he was picking up her/his sailboat.

After defining and discussing the differences between observations and inferences, students will have a chance to work with their partner to practice identifying and classifying the statements related to the image of the boy in the water. Once everyone is done, as a class, we then discuss each statement and confirm each as either an observation or inference.

On your worksheet, use the picture of the kid in the water to determine if the statements are observations or if the statements are inferences. Place an “Inf” in the blank for inference and an “Obs” in the blank for observation.