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What Is the Median? - Definition & Explanation

What Is the Median? - Definition & Explanation
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  • 0:00 What Is the Median?
  • 0:52 How to Find the Median
  • 2:05 Examples
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Beddoe
The median is a statistical term that is one way of finding the 'average' of a set of data points. This lesson will show you how to determine the median, differentiate it from the other ways of finding the average, and give some real life examples.

What Is the Median?

Median means middle. In the study of statistics, the median is just one way of determining the average of a group of numbers. The three most common 'averages' in statistics are:

  • The mean is what is most commonly thought of as the 'average.' It's found by adding all the numbers of the set and dividing by the number of terms.
  • The mode is the number that occurs most often in a set of numbers.
  • The median is the middle number in a group of numbers. It's not as commonly used as the others, but it can be the best 'average' to use when you have a set of data that contains outliers.

An outlier is a statistical observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data. It can skew the mean of the data, but by using the median, statisticians can get a more accurate picture of the true average (or middle value) of the data.

How to Find the Median

As we discussed previously, the median is the middle number of a group of numbers. There are two possibilities when finding the median of your data set:

  • There's an odd number of data points: If you're trying to find the median for an odd number of data points, first arrange the numbers in order from smallest to largest and then count them. The median number will be the one exactly in the middle, with an equal amount of numbers on either side of it.
  • There's an even number of data points: If the set of numbers you are working with contains an even number of data points, there will not be one number in the middle. In this case, you need to calculate the median. To do this, first arrange the numbers in order, then take the two middle numbers given, add them together, and divide by two. This will give you the median number.

Often, the numbers that you are dealing with are not right next to each other; there are gaps between them. This makes it a bit more difficult to find the median, but the process is the same. Arrange the numbers in order, find the two middle numbers, add them together, and divide by two.

Examples

In many real life situations, using the median as the 'average' of a group of numbers makes the most sense. Things do not always line up nicely, and the outliers can drastically skew the data.

Let's look at this example:

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