Primary Mathematics/Average, median, and mode
Average, median, and mode
There are three primary measures of central tendency, and a couple less often used measures, which each, in their own way, tell us what a typical value is for a set of data. Generally, when finding the measures of central tendency, one would order the values of the data set from least to greatest.
The mode is simply the number which occurs most often in a set of numbers. For example, if there are seven 12-year olds in a class, ten 13-year olds, and four 14-year olds, the mode is 13, since there are more 13 year olds than any other age. In elections, the mode is often called the plurality, and the candidate who gets the most votes wins, even if they don't get the majority (over half) of the votes.
The median is the middle value of a set of values. For example, if students scored 81, 84, and 93 on a test; we select the middle value of 84 as the median.
If you have an even number of values, the average of the two middle values is used as the median. For example, the median of 81, 84, 86, and 93 is 85, since that's midway between 84 and 86, the two middle values.
The straight average, or arithmetic mean,(sometimes referred to simply as "average" or "mean"), is the sum of all values divided by the number of values. For example, if students scored 81, 84, and 93 on a test, the average is (81+84+93)/3 or 86.
The weighted average or weighted mean, is similar to the straight average, with one exception. When totaling the individual values, each is multiplied by a weighting factor, and the total is then divided by the sum of all the weighting factors. These weighting factors allow us to count some values as "more important" in finding the final value than others.
Let's say we had two school classes, one with 20 students, and one with 30 students. The grades in each class on a particular test were:
- Morning class = 62, 67, 71, 74, 76, 77, 78, 79, 79, 80, 80, 81, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 89, 93, 98
- Afternoon class = 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 87, 88, 88, 89, 89, 89, 90, 90, 90, 90, 91, 91, 91, 92, 92, 93, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99
The straight average for the morning class is 80% and the straight average of the afternoon class is 90%. If we were to find a straight average of 80% and 90%, we would get 85% for the mean of the two class averages. However, this is not the average of all the students' grades. To find that, you would need to total all the grades and divide by the total number of students:
Or, you could find the weighted average of the two class means already calculated, using the number of students in each class as the weighting factor:
Note that if we no longer had the individual students' grades, but only had the class averages and the number of students in each class, we could still find the mean of all the students grades, in this way, by finding the weighted mean of the two class averages.
The geometric mean is a number midway between two values by multiplication, rather than by addition or subtraction. For example, the geometric mean of 3 and 12 is 6, because you multiply 3 by the same value (2, in this case) to get 6 as you must multiply by 6 to get 12. The mathematical formula for finding the geometric mean of two values is:
A = one value B = the other value
So, in our case:
Note the new notation used to show multiplication. We now can omit the multiplication sign and show simply AB to mean A×B. However, when using numbers, 312 would be confusing, so we put parenthesis around at least one of the numbers to make it clear.
The geometric mean can be extended to additional values:
For three values, a cube root is performed instead of a square root. On four values, the fourth root is performed.