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What is a Median?

Updated on April 24, 2013



Definition of Median

The median is one of the measures of central tendency.

Central tendency usually consists of the mean, median, and mode. A set of data can be analyzed in a multitude of ways. A set of data include elements or numbers in the set. Referring to the elements of a set is common to distinguish between the data and the elements in a set.

The median of a set of data is the number that is directly in the middle of the data set. The data needs to be ordered from least to greatest in order in order to find the middle of the set. MIDDLE is the key word. I often use key words to help my student remember the measures of central tendency.

  1. Mean = AVERAGE
  2. Median = MIDDLE
  3. Mode = MOST

These key words help create an easy mnemonic device to help clue in the learner to what they are looking for and how the should analyze the data.

Try To Find the Median

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Odd Number of Elements in a Set

When you have an odd number of elements in a set finding the median is simple.

  1. Order the numbers from least to greatest.
  2. Using any method you would like find the number that sits by itself in the middle.

The basic way I teach my student is to take the pointer finger on each hand and put the finger on the greatest and the least number and move each finger in toward the center a number at a time until only one number remains.

Examples of Median

A set of number is shown.

4, 6, 7, 1, 3

This set has an odd number of elements.

Arrange the numbers in order from least to greatest.

  • 1, 3, 4, 6, 7
  • 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 Work you way to the middle
  • 1, 3, 4, 6, 7
  • 1, 3, 4, 6, 7

4 is the number in the middle of the set.

The median for this set of number is 4.

Even Number in the Element Set

A set of numbers is shown
A set of numbers is shown | Source
Find the numbers in the middle of the set
Find the numbers in the middle of the set | Source
Find the mean of the two middle numbers
Find the mean of the two middle numbers | Source

Even Number in the Element Set

When you have an even number of element in a set you will see two number in the middle. There are not two medians. Find the mean of these two numbers to find the median.

Add the numbers togehter and divide by two to find the median.

The Even Set

The set of numbers on the right has an even set of numbers.

  1. Place the numbers in numeric order from least to greatest.
  2. Move toward the center of the set of data.
  3. There are two number in the enter of this data set.
  4. Add 3 and 6.
  5. Divide 9 by 2.

The median for this data set is 4.5. This is the average of the two numbers, otherwise known as the mean.

Measures of Central Tendency

The measures of central tendency analyze a set of data in several different ways. Knowing the difference between, mean, median, mode, and range is only the beginning. Knowing how and when to use the the measures to give additional knowledge of the data is essential.


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    • kansasyarn profile image

      Teresa Sanderson 

      6 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Great simple and useful hub. All to often median is confused with average. Thanks for making it so simple! Voted up!

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      6 years ago

      This is a very useful hub for all those that might be looking to find out what a median is. For some, this might be a topic that is hard to understand but this hub should help because you managed to explain things in a simple and clear manner. You even included pictures which serves as great visuals to further understand the topic of median.


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