Basic science: understanding numbers
Basic science: understanding numbers

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4.2.1 Types of average

There are three main types of average: mean, median and mode. Each of these techniques works slightly differently and often results in slightly different typical values.

The mean is the most commonly used average. To get the mean value, you add up all the values and divide this total by the number of values. For example, if you wanted to find the mean of 11, 14 and 17, you would add them to give a total of 42, then divide that by the number of values you have, which is 3. So the mean of 11, 14 and 17 is 42/3 = 14.

The other types of average are:

  • The median, which places all your values in order from smallest to highest and finds the one in the middle. For example, the median of the values 3, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11 and 16 is 5.
  • The mode is the most commonly occurring value. For example, the modal value of 1, 3, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 12, 14 and 24 is 6 because it appears the most times.

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