What’s the difference between average, mean, median, and mode?

The terms averagemeanmedian and mode are commonly confused with each other because they all describe ways to talk about sets of numbers. To look at how each term works, let’s say that nine students took a quiz, and the scores were 91, 84, 56, 90, 70, 65, 90, 92, and 30.

When someone asks for the average of a group of numbers, they’re most likely asking for the arithmetic mean, a synonymous term. An arithmetic mean is calculated by adding several quantities together and dividing the sum by the number of quantities. For our example, we need to add the nine quiz scores together and then divide the sum by nine. So, the rounded average, or mean, score is 74.

The median is another form of an average. It usually represents the middle number in a given sequence of numbers when it’s ordered by rank. When the quiz scores are listed from lowest to highest (or highest to lowest), we can see that the median, or middle, score is 84.

The mode is the most frequent value in a set of data. For our test takers, the mode, or most common, score is 90.

Do you have any tricks for remembering what each of these four terms mean? Share in the comments!


  1. Anonymous -  August 28, 2016 - 5:56 pm

    An exclusive class interval data on speed of Indian and foreign cars is converted into less than and more than frequency distributions. Line diagram of these distributions are created and a perpendicular is drawn from the intersecting point towards the X-axis. *
    Which measure of central tendency is located in this process at X-axis?
    1 point

  2. Deb -  August 10, 2016 - 9:02 am

    How do you determine the median if there is an even number of values?

    • Body omar -  August 14, 2016 - 3:02 pm

      arrang the set from smaller to bigger no. Then add the two numbers in the middle and divide them by two

    • Denice Stoudt -  August 21, 2016 - 11:22 am

      do you add the two numbers in the middle to get median if there is an even numbers of value

    • Caleb -  August 28, 2016 - 4:53 pm

      If there is an even number of values, you determine the median by, [assuming the values are already ranked by value], adding the two middle values and then divide that sum by 2.
      >>An Example for you: There are an even number (8) of student test scores;
      71, 72, 80, 88, 93, 94, 94, 99

      in this case, 88 and 93 would be the ‘middle values’. Adding (88 + 93) = 181
      and 181 ÷ 2 = 90.5 (rounded up to 91), which gives you your median.

  3. krishna -  June 24, 2016 - 3:12 am

    When our comes to electricity terminalogy average and mean values are different why this happens ,if average and mean values are equal???

    • John -  September 14, 2016 - 4:32 am

      Nobody has answered you yet, so I’ll try. In electrical engineering there is often used the “RMS”, which is short for Root Mean Square. It means the square root of the average of the SQUARES of the values. So if the values are 3, 4 and 5, then the arithmetic mean (commonly called average) is found as (a) 3+4+5=12 and (b) 12/3=4.
      The RMS is calculated as:
      (a) 3 squared + 4 squared + 5 squared = 9+16+25 = 50
      (b) 50/3 = 16.666 (which is the average of the SQUARES)
      (c) Find the square root of 16.6666: it’s 4.08. So in this case the RMS is only slightly bigger than the simple average.
      Suppose the values were 10, 15 and 30; the average is then 18.3 and RMS 20.2. The RMS is always bigger than the arithmetic mean (or average) because taking squares emphasises the larger values. This is important in electrical engineering, but I’ve forgotten why (school days are long,long ago).

      • quanta -  October 8, 2016 - 2:37 am

        RMS in electric engineering bcz the alternating voltage and current change continuously btwn their maxm negtiv and positive …..so when we find avg by simple ,method it comes out to b 0 …….that’s y w calculate ,the rms value of avg….

  4. AMAN TYAGI -  June 22, 2016 - 3:08 am

    Please clearly define the median & mode with any mathematical example & mathematical formula.

  5. Nikita -  April 10, 2016 - 4:23 pm

    Well, I wanted to ask you guys this question. What means range??

    • Anonymous -  May 13, 2016 - 4:37 am

      Range is the group of numbers used to calculate the middle value

      • Anonymous -  May 13, 2016 - 4:39 am

        Sorry I meant values instead of numbers

    • Nicole M -  October 6, 2016 - 12:19 pm

      The range is the difference between the lowest value and the highest value in the data you have.

      An example, using the data listed in the original post:
      “let’s say that nine students took a quiz, and the scores were 91, 84, 56, 90, 70, 65, 90, 92, and 30.”

      We take the maximum score (92) and subtract the minimum score (30) to find the range.
      Range = 92 – 30 = 62
      The range for this data is 62.
      What we get from the range, as opposed to information about the middle or center of the data, is an idea of variability or dispersion of the data. This is a rough estimate of typical variability, but the range gives us an idea of how far apart the data falls.


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