How to use Pivot Tables to recognize and make sense of data

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How to use pivot tables in excel


Pivot Tables are used to reorganize data in a spreadsheet. They won’t change the data that you have, but they can sum up values and compare different information in your spreadsheet, depending on what you’d like them to do.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say I want to take a look at how many people are in each house at Hogwarts. You may be thinking that I don’t have too much data, but for longer data sets, this will come in handy.

To create the Pivot Table, I go to Data > Pivot Table. Excel will automatically populate your Pivot Table, but you can always change around the order of the data. Then, you have four options to choose from.

  1. Report Filter: This allows you to only look at certain rows in your dataset. For example, if I wanted to create a filter by house, I could choose to only include students in Gryffindor instead of all students.
  2. Column Labels: These could be your headers in the dataset.
  3. Row Labels: These could be your rows in the dataset. Both Row and Column labels can contain data from your columns (e.g. First Name can be dragged to either the Row or Column label — it just depends on how you want to see the data.)
  4. Value: This section allows you to look at your data differently. Instead of just pulling in any numeric value, you can sum, count, average, max, min, count numbers, or do a few other manipulations with your data. In fact, by default, when you drag a field to Value, it always does a count.

Since I want to count the number of students in each house, I’ll go to the Pivot Table and drag the House column to both the Row Labels and the Values. This will sum up the number of students associated with each house.

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