- Define and calculate mean, median, mode, and range
- Construct data tables that facilitate the calculation of mean, median, mode, and range
- Determine which measure of central tendency is best to use in a given circumstance
- Cultivating Data Worksheets: Steps to Selecting a Measure of Central Tendency printable
- Standards Chart: Cultivating Data printable
- Optional: Interactive Data Analysis Tools
- Optional: Cultivating Data: Organize, Display, and Analyze Statistical Information Classroom Poster printable
- Make a class set of the Cultivating Data Worksheets: Steps to Selecting a Measure of Central Tendency printable.
- Optional: Make a copy of the Cultivating Data: Organize, Display, and Analyze Statistical Information Classroom Poster printable to display in your classroom, or print a class set for students as a reminder for vocabulary and different types of graphs.
Step 1: Pose the following problem to your class: You have been offered a sales job at Trixie's custom bike shop. There is no salary, but you are paid a 10% commission on every bike you sell. You ask Trixie what the typical sales rep makes. She isn't sure, but she provides you with the amount of commission paid to each of the seven sales reps for the past week: $500; $1,000; $50; $11,000; $950; $50; $450. Write these amounts on the board.
Step 2: Ask the class what they think the typical sales rep makes and have them explain their thinking. Through the discussion, ensure that the following points are made:
- That week, the lowest-paid rep earned $50 while the highest made $11,000. This is known as the range. Indicate that range also can be shown as the difference between the greatest data value and the lowest data value. In this case, $11,000 - $50 = $10,950.
- The mean commission equals the sum of the commissions divided by the number of sales reps. In this case, $14,000/7 = $2,000. Note that mean is sometimes called arithmetic average.
- The mode commission is the amount that appears most often (there may be more than one). In this case, $50 is the mode because it appears twice while all the others appear only once. (One way to remember mode is that the initial letters of "most" and "often" are the first two letters of mode.)
- Demonstrate how median is determined. Line up the amounts in ascending order, i.e., $50, $50, $450, $500, $950, $1,000, $11,000. Indicate that $500, the middle amount, is the median. (One way to remember median is that the median on a highway runs down the middle.) Point out that when there is an even number of data points, calculate the mean of the two middle numbers to find the median.
Step 3: Ask the class whether the mean ($2,000), median ($500), or mode ($50) would best represent the "typical" weekly commission. Ensure that students understand that the two $50 amounts and the one $11,000 amount skew the mode and mean, respectively.
Step 4: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each measure. Note that the mode, which is easiest to calculate, is useful in certain circumstances, for example, when a sandwich shop wants to find out its most popular sandwich, but is less useful as a measure of what is typical. The mean — which, unlike the median, doesn't require the data to be lined up in order — is subject to being skewed by unusually high or low values.
Step 5: Distribute the Cultivating Data Worksheets: Steps to Selecting a Measure of Central Tendency printable to students to complete over 1–3 days. Then review the answers with the class.
- Grade 6: CCSS.Math.Content.6.SP.B.5c
- Grades 6–8: NCTM Data Analysis and Probability
For more information, download the comprehensive Standards Chart: Cultivating Data printable.