We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between Median and Mean?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

In statistics, mean and median are different measures of the central tendency in a set of data, or the tendency of the numbers to bunch around a particular value. In a group of values, it might be desirable to find the one that is most typical. One way of doing this is to find the mean, or average, which is the sum of all the values divided by the total number of values. Another way is to find the median, or middle, value, which is the one in the center of an ordered list of numbers. The better method to use depends on the application and on the nature of the data.


Getting the mean of something is the same as obtaining the average number in a data set. The sum of the values in the set is divided by the number of values. For example, a teacher might evaluate five test scores, all weighted equally, to determine a grade for a student. If the five test scores are 80, 85, 60, 90, and 100, these numbers are added together to give a sum of 415, which is divided by 5 to get the mean score of 83. After calculating this, the teacher can assign a grade to the student.


In a median measurement, the data are arranged from lowest to highest: 60, 80, 85, 90 and 100. The middle number in this set is the median. In this example, the median is 85, the third, and middle, number of the set. This varies slightly from the mean of 83. A teacher may wish to look at a median score, as it tends to rule out an unusually low score, like 60, that would lower the average.

Where the number of values is even, an average of the two central numbers is taken. These two numbers are added together and divided by two. For example, in a class of ten students the scores in a test might be, in ascending order, 48, 56, 57, 61, 65, 68, 68, 71, 77 and 82. The median for this data set would be the average of the fifth and sixth numbers, 65 and 68, which is 66.5.


These methods are both used to find a “typical” value from a set of data. The mean is the most commonly used measurement of central tendency, but there are cases where it is not appropriate. For example, the data may be “skewed,” meaning that most of the numbers are toward either the low or the high end of the scale, or that there is one value that is wildly different from all the others — this is known as an outlier. Especially in a small set of data, the average value in these cases will not be typical.

For example, if five students sit a test, and the scores are 24, 85, 89, 91 and 95, the mean score is 60.6. This, however, is untypical — the average has been dragged down by one outlying score of 24, possibly because one student had not been studying. In this case, the median of 89 is much more typical.

Another method occasionally used is the mode, which is simply the most common value in a data set. It is sometimes used where the possible values in a set of data are limited and mutually exclusive. For example, a survey of laptop computer owners might be carried out to find the most popular brand. In this case, a mean or median brand would not make sense, and the most popular brand would be the mode.

To give an example where all three methods might be used, some data relating to employees of a company might be collected. An analysis might calculate the average salary, but this may be skewed by a small number of very high earners in senior management, so the median salary might give a better idea of how much a typical employee is paid. If the data is broken down by educational qualifications, it might be found that the majority of employees have a university degree — this would be the mode.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All The Science contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon998215 — On Apr 25, 2017

Third number is 32.

By anon350550 — On Oct 06, 2013

I need help in statistics. please. Can anyone help me with some questions in multiple linear regression?

By anon331616 — On Apr 24, 2013

The average of three numbers is 48. The average of two of these numbers is 56. What is the third number?

By anon319513 — On Feb 13, 2013

I realize with this job, the lowest salary is $434k and the highest is $650k, while the mean is $540k and the median $450k. So would I make $540k or 450k?

By sunshine31 — On May 27, 2011

@Millhouse- I just wanted to say that my daughter was learning this in her math class and I told her that the definition of mean relates to the average of something. I told her that in order to calculate the mean she would have to add up all of the numbers and divide by the number of entries.

This is referred to as statistical or sample mean. I also explained that the mode is the number that comes up most frequently in the sample, while the median number is the number most central when setting up the numbers in a number line. When I explain what these words mean in this fashion, it becomes really easy for her to do her math problems.

By hannahs14 — On Jul 09, 2010

The mean number is used more often when someone is trying to determine the ratio, or probability, of a certain numerical outcome. Because the mean averages the numbers, it's a better number to use when trying to determine the likelihood of an outcome.

By millhouse — On Jun 22, 2008

If the data set has an even number of values, then the median is determined by taking the average of the two middle numbers. So, for example: 1, 2, 3, 4. The median is 2.5 because 2 plus 3 divided by 2 equals 2.5.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All The Science contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.