How to Calculate Central Tendency

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Statistics analyzes and interprets large sets of numbers. To make the lists of data more comprehensible, central tendencies are calculated. A measure of central tendency points the statistician toward a centralized, repeated, or average number. There are three different ways to calculate central tendency. Each reveals different information about the number set. Yet, each method uncovers an important value, and each is used extensively by mathematicians to make sense of data.

    Arrange your set of numbers from smallest to largest. Determine which measure of central tendency you wish to calculate. The three types are mean, median and mode.

    To calculate the mean, add all your data and divide the result by the number of data. For example, if you had the number set of 3, 4, 5 and 6, you would calculate the mean by adding the numbers, which have the sum of 18. Divide 18 by 4 (the amount of numbers in your set), which results in 4.5, the mean of the set.

    To calculate the median, identify the central number in the set. If the amount of numbers in your set is odd, just take the number right in the center of the set. For example, if you had the number set 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, the median would be 3. However, if the amount of numbers in your set is even, take the 2 central numbers, add them together and divide them by 2 to calculate the median. For example, if you had the number set 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, you would add 3 and 4 to reach 7, and divide by 2 to reach 3.5, the median of the set.

    To calculate the mode, identify which number occurs most frequently. For example, if you had the number set 1, 2, 3, 3, 4 and 5, the mode would be 3. A number set can have more than 1 mode.

    Tips

    • Consult the additional resources section to find exactly which measure of central tendency you need for your specific purposes.

    Warnings

    • Mistakes are easy to make, so check your work.

References

About the Author

Mary Freeman is a freelance writer. She has held several editorial positions at the print publication, "The Otter Realm." She traveled throughout Europe, which ultimately resulted in an impromptu move to London, where she stayed for eight months. This life experience inspired her to pursue travel writing. Freeman received a degree in human communication from California State University.

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