The measures of central tendency refer to the mean, median and mode. These statistical figures help to determine a central or typical value for a particular parameter. Mean, median and mode are all different, and it is important for the mathematician to know which of these values provides the best fit for a particular set of data.
The mean is the arithmetic average. Mathematicians calculate it by finding the sum of a set of numbers and dividing it by the number of items in the set. It is the most popular of all the measures of central tendencies and provides one single answer that is useful in comparing two sets of numbers. However, extreme values, known as outliers, affect the mean.
The median is the middle value when data points are arranged in order from smallest to largest. When the number of data points is even, the median is the mode of the two central numbers. Medians are useful when there is an outlier, and they provide a single answer for comparing two data sets. However, the median is less frequently used than the mean.
The mode is the value that appears the most times in a data set. It is useful when the data points collected are not numerical. However, it sometimes produces more than one answer. If there are no repeating values in the data set, the mode is useless.