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Mean, Median, and Mode

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There is often a need to describe a collection of data (a data set). One way to do this to find the middle value. This is called the average or sometimes the measure of central tendency. Below are examples of three types of average; arithmetic mean, median, and mode.

The examples below will show how to calculate the arithmetic mean, the median, and the mode for the following set of values showing the heights of students in a 6th Grade class.

Student Heights (cm)

135 154 154 152 144
145 157 152 153 142
149 151 146 138 152
147 156 140 146 159
149 162 140 148 152


Arithmetic Mean

Sometimes just the term "mean" is used. There are other types of "mean" so, to be precise, we should say "arithmetic" mean. The arithmetic mean is calculated by taking the sum of all values and dividing by the number of values. The examples below show this.

Example 1: The Arithmetic Mean


= sum of the values
number of values
  = (135 + 154 + 154 + 152 ....)


= 148.9 cm

Note: Arithmetic Mean does not always provide the best description of the middle of a set of data. For example, in a sports team, if one or two superstars are paid much more than the rest of their team mates, then they will "skew" the data.


The Median is the value that separates the lower half from the upper half of a data set. In other words, if the values are sorted in order, the median will be the value in the middle. If there are an odd number of values the median is obvious. If there an even number of values, the median is calculated by taking the arithmetic mean of the two middle values.


Example 2: The Median


First, order the data from smallest to largest.

Student Heights (cm)

135 138 140 140 142
144 145 146 146 147
148 149 149 151 152
152 152 152 153 154
154 156 157 159 162


There are 25 values. The median is therefore the 13th value. There are 12 lower values and 12 higher values.

The median of the data is 149 cm


The Mode is the value that appears most often in a data set

Example 3: The Mode


It is often easier to find the most occurring value after sorting and ordering the data (which you have to do anyway if you are also looking for the median).

There are four occurrences of the height measurement of 152cm. The next most common values are 140, 146, 149, and 154 which all occur two times.

The mode is 152 cm.

Mean, Median, & Mode Worksheets

Try the worksheets below with your children to help them practice calculating arithmetic mean, median, and mode for different sets of data.

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