David M. Lane


Distributions, central tendency, absolute differences


From the median simulation (section 5 of this chapter), we saw that the middle number of a dataset minimizes the sum of the absolute deviations from the other numbers. This middle number is called the "median" and is a frequently used measure of central tendency. By definition, half of the values in a distribution are above the median and half are below. Thus, the median is the midpoint of a distribution.

Computation of the Median

When there is an odd number of numbers, the median is simply the middle number. For example, the median of 2, 4, and 7 is 4. When there is an even number of numbers, the median is the mean of the two middle numbers. Thus, the median of the numbers 2, 4, 7, 12 is (4+7)/2 = 5.5.

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