What Is Median Vs. Mean?

median-vs-mean Credit: Hiroshi Watanabe/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

The median is the middle number when a set of numbers is arranged in order from smallest to largest, and the mean is the average of a set of numbers. Both these measurements are useful in performing statistical analyses of a number grouping and making projections about future results.

To compute the mean, add all numbers in a given set, and then divide that total by the number of values in the set. For example, if a basketball player scores eight, 12, 14, 18 and 28 points over five consecutive games, his scoring mean during that stretch is 16. This result is calculated by taking the five-game total of 80 points, and then dividing it by 5, which is the number of values in the set. If the player scores more than 16 points in the next game, his average increases; if he scores less, it drops.

To determine the median of a set, first organize the values in ascending order. When the total number of values is odd, the median is the number exactly in middle. When the total of the set is even, the median is the average of the two numbers in the middle. The median points for the player in the example above is 14, which is the exact middle number in the set. Median is often referred to as the "typical" result.