What’s The Difference: Average, Mean, Median, And Mode

Here at Dictionary.com … we’re no math experts, words are our game. But, with some help from our friends at Study.com and their super-easy-to-understand math courses, we learned some new ways to understand math jargon. Yup, the dictionary needs help learning mathematical terms too.

As you probably know the terms averagemeanmedian, and mode are commonly confused with one another 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.

What is the mean?

When someone asks for the average of a group of numbers, they’re most likely asking for the arithmetic mean (a synonymous term, thank you Thesaurus.com). 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. (91 + 84 + 56 + 90 + 70 + 65 + 90 + 92 + 30 = 668. 668 divided by 9 = 74. Voila.)

What is the median?

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: 30, 56, 65, 70, 84, 90, 90, 91, 92, or highest to lowest: 92, 91, 90, 90, 84, 70, 65, 56, 30, we can see that the median, or middle, score is 84.

What is the mode?

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

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for our Newsletter!

Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.