​What's the difference between the mean, median and mode? Why are there so many different types of average?!

The average we're all familiar with is called the mean average - "add them all together and divide by how many there are", but sometimes another type of average makes more sense.

As an example, consider a company with 8 employees, earning the following amounts per week.


For the mean average, we add them all together (to give £8000), then divide by how many there are (8 of them), to give £1000 a week - this is the mean average weekly wage of the company, but all but one of the employees earns less than this, the average is skewed (messed up) by the boss who gets way more money than everyone else!

For the median average, we list the amounts in ascending or descending order (conveniently, this has already been done), then select the middle salary. Since there are an even number of employees, there are two values which are both equally in the middle - £280 and £300 - so we take a (mean!) average of those two. The median average is £290 a week.

In this case, the median average (£290/week) gives a better idea of the wages of a typical employee, compared with the mean average (£1000/week).

The mode average is usually used when data are in categories, such as shoe sizes, and is simply the category which occurs most often.

For example, here is a table of shoe sizes and frequencies for a class of 27 year 11 pupils.

Size    |    frequency
 6        |    2
 7        |    3
 8        |    4
 9        |    8
10       |    5
11       |    4
12       |    1

the mode is simply the category which occurs most often, in this case the shoe size 9, with 8 people in the class having that shoe size.

John H. GCSE Maths tutor, A Level Maths tutor, A Level Further Mathem...

1 year ago

Answered by John, a GCSE Maths tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£18 /hr

Scott E.

Degree: Computer Science (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered:Maths, Physics+ 1 more


“Maths and Computer Science lover. With a patient, thorough and friendly teaching style.”

£18 /hr

Pankaj K.

Degree: Physics (Bachelors) - Kings, London University

Subjects offered:Maths, Physics+ 1 more

Further Mathematics

“Positive, Dedicated, Motivating, Calm, Patient, Understanding, Professional, Organised, Experienced, Focused, Enthusiastic, Passionate”

MyTutor guarantee

|  1 completed tutorial

£20 /hr

Abby R.

Degree: English (Bachelors) - Oxford, Keble College University

Subjects offered:Maths, Latin+ 2 more

English Literature

“I'm studying English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and can tutor English, Latin and Maths.”

About the author

£18 /hr

John H.

Degree: PhD in Metallurgy and Materials ("solubility and particulate release behaviour of corrosion films on SS316L surfaces in simulated PWR primary coolant") (Doctorate) - Birmingham University

Subjects offered:Maths, Physics+ 1 more

Further Mathematics

“About me:Hi there. I'm in the final year of a PhD at the University of Birmingham, writing up my thesis. I'm still learning!I love maths and physics - there's so much cool stuff, especially at A Level. I still remember when I first ...”

You may also like...

Other GCSE Maths questions

if x^2 + 9x + 20 = 0, what are the possible values of x?

The line AB has equation 3x +5y = 7 . Find the gradient of AB.

Rationalising the denominator (Surds)

Solve the simultaneous equations (with a calculator)

View GCSE Maths tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss