Friday, February 26, 2010

Which Measure of Central Tendency to Use? Mode, Mean, or Median?

A concept which may need a bit more explanation is: which average is appropriate for a given question? What is the best measure of central tendency? When would you use a median instead of a mean, or perhaps use a mode instead?

For any data set, you can perform the analysis to come up with a value for each average. However, here are a few basic guidelines to help you choose the most appropriate form of central tendency to describe your data.  If this is helpful, it would be great if you could please hit the +1 button to share it!

1. For a normal, random distribution of data (evenly distributed), the mean is preferred.
2. For a skewed data set, a median is more appropriate than a mean. The skewed data set (ie. extreme data points) will cause the mean value to be much more extreme than the median, and therefore less central.
3. The mode can be used for non-numerical data. Eg. hair colour in a classroom.

Here are a few examples of where each would be appropriate:

1) students' heights in a classroom
2) temperature over a length of time

1) income of a group of people
2) test scores for a group of students

1) finding the most common hair colour in a room
2) finding the most common car in a parking lot

Hopefully these guidelines will help you to determine which is the most appropriate measure of central tendency to report for your data set.

Again, if this was helpful, please share and hit the +1 for me! :)


  1. thanks for help.
    zahoor ahmad

  2. Thankss man really helped.....It was a ques. in my maths textbook and i didn' ndersand it bt not its perfectly clear....tommorow is my maths annual exam wish me...thnx a lot :-D

  3. thank you. that was really helpful

  4. Thanks so much, now I have completed my homework!

  5. I am a Mathematician. The information contained herein is reliable and easy-to-use. Thank You.


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