5.4: Median
Here are the temperatures you recorded for the last fifteen days in degrees Fahrenheit: 25, 55, 65, 60, 10, 52, 61, 58, 53, 67, 61, 63, 64, 59, 47. What measurement would you use to describe a representative temperature over those fifteen days?
Watch This
First watch this video to learn about the median.
CK12 Foundation: Chapter5MedianA
Then watch this video to see some examples.
CK12 Foundation: Chapter5MedianB
Watch this video for more help.
This video from Khan Academy shows how to calculate the mean, median, and mode of a data set.
Khan Academy Average or Central Tendency: Arithmetic Mean, Median, and Mode
Guidance
Before class begins, bring out the blocks that you and your classmates chose from the pail for the concept on mean. In addition, have the grid paper on display where each student in your class posted his or her number of blocks.
To begin the class, refer to the comments on the measures of central tendency that were recorded from the earlier concept, when the brainstorming session occurred. Highlight the comments that were made with regard to the median of a set of data and discuss this measure of central tendency with your classmates. Once the discussion has been completed, choose a handful of blocks like you did before, with your classmates doing the same.
Next, form a line with your classmates as a representation of the data from smallest to largest. In other words, those with the largest number of blocks should be at one end of the line, and those with the fewest number of blocks should be at the other end of the line. Have those at the ends of the line move out from the line 2 at a time, with 1 from each end leaving the line at the same time. This movement from the ends should enforce the concept of what is meant by center , and as you and your classmates move away, you will see that the last 1 or 2 people remaining in the line actually represent the center of the data.
A similar activity can be done by using the grid paper chart. Instead of you and your classmates moving from a line, you could simply remove your postit notes the same way.
Another simple activity to reenforce the concept of center is to place 5 desks in a single row and to have one of your classmates sit in the middle desk.
Your classmate should be sitting in desk number 3. The other students in your class will quickly notice that there are 2 desks in front of your classmate and 2 desks behind your classmate. Therefore, your classmate is sitting in the desk in the middle position, which is the median of the desks.
From the discussion, the activity with the blocks, and the activity with the desks, you and your classmates should have an understanding of the meaning of the median with respect to a set of data. Here is another example. The test scores for 7 students were 25, 55, 58, 64, 66, 68 and 70. The mean mark is 48.6, which is lower than all but 1 of the student’s marks. The one very low mark of 25 has caused the mean to be skewed. A better measure of the average performance of the 7 students would be the middle mark of 64. The median is the number in the middle position once the data has been organized. Organized data is simply the numbers arranged from smallest to largest or from largest to smallest. 64 is the only number for which there are as many values above it as below it in the set of organized data, so it is the median. The median for an odd number of data values is the value that divides the data into 2 halves. If represents the number of data values and is an odd number, then the median will be found in the position.
The median is often preferable to the mean as a summary statistic, because the mean is affected by extreme values, or outliers . For example, if you were employed by a company that paid all of its employees a salary between $60,000 and $70,000, you could probably estimate the mean salary to be about $65,000. However, if you had to add in the $150,000 salary of the CEO when calculating the mean, then the value of the mean would increase greatly. It would, in fact, be the mean of the employees' salaries, but it probably would not be a good measure of the central tendency of the salaries. It would be much better to use the median as a summary statistic in this case.
Example A
Find the median of the following data:
a) 12, 2, 16, 8, 14, 10, 6
b) 7, 9, 3, 4, 11, 1, 8, 6, 1, 4
a) The first step is to organize the data, or arrange the numbers from smallest to largest.
The number of data values is 7, which is an odd number. Therefore, the median will be found in the position.
In this case, the median is the value that is found in the position of the organized data.
This means that the median is 10.
b) The first step is to organize the data, or arrange the numbers from smallest to largest.
The number of data values is 10, which is an even number. Therefore, the median will be the mean of the number found before the position and the number found after the position.
The number found before the 5.5 position is 4, and the number found after the 5.5 position is 6.
This means that the median is .
Example B
The amount of money spent by each of 15 high school girls for a prom dress is shown below:
What is the median price spent on a prom dress?
The prices have been organized from least to greatest, and the number of prices is an odd number. Therefore, the median will be in the position: .
The median price is $300, which is the position.
Example C
The following table shows the number of goals scored by Ashton during each of 26 hockey games. What is the median number of goals scored by Ashton during a game?
When data is entered into a frequency table, a column that displays the cumulative frequency is often included. This column is simply the sum of the frequencies up to and including that frequency. The median can be determined by using the information that is presented in the cumulative frequency column.
In this example, there are 26 data values, which is an even number. The middle position is , and the median is the sum of the numbers above and below position 13.5 divided by 2. According to the table, the numbers in the and positions are 2’s. Therefore, the median is goals.
Points to Consider
 The median of a set of data values cuts the data in half. Is only the median of an entire set of data a useful value?
 Is the median of a set of data useful in any other aspect of statistics?
 Other than as a numerical value, can the median be used to represent data in any other way?
Vocabulary
The median is the value of the middle term in a set of organized data. For a set of data with an odd number of values, it is the value that has an equal number of data values before and after it, or the middle value. For a set of data with an even number of values, the median is the average of the 2 values in the middle positions. When data is entered into a frequency table, the cumulative frequency , which is the sum of the frequencies up to and including that frequency, can be used to find the median. Outliers are extreme values in a data set.
Guided Practice
The students from a local high school volunteered to clean up the playground as an act of community service. The numbers of pop cans collected by 20 of the students are shown in the following table:
What is the median number of pop cans collected by a student?
Answer:
There is an even number of data values in the table, so the median will be the mean of the number before the position and the number after the position: .
The number before the 10.5 position is 15, and the number after the 10.5 position is 16. Therefore, the median number of pop cans collected by a student is .
Interactive Practice
Practice

What name is given to a value in a data set that is much lower or much higher than the other values?
 A sample
 An outlier
 A population
 A tally

What is the median of the following numbers?
 42.5
 39
 42
 35.5

The front row in a movie theatre has 23 seats. If you were asked to sit in the seat that occupied the median position, in what number seat would you have to sit?
 1
 11
 23
 12

What is the median mark achieved by a student who recorded the following marks on 10 math quizzes?
 68
 71
 69
 79

A set of 4 numbers that begins with the number 32 is arranged from smallest to largest. If the median is 35, which of these could possibly be the set of numbers?
 32, 34, 36, 38
 32, 35, 38, 41
 32, 33, 34, 35
 32, 36, 40, 44

The number of chocolate bars sold by each of 30 students is as follows:
What is the median number of chocolate bars sold by the 30 students?
 18
 21
 24
 32
 The following table lists the retail price and the dealer’s costs for 10 cars at a local car lot this past year: Deals on Wheels
Car Model  Retail Price  Dealer’s Cost 

Nissan Sentra  $24,500  $18,750 
Ford Fusion  $26,450  $21,300 
Hyundai Elantra  $22,660  $19,900 
Chevrolet Malibu  $25,200  $22,100 
Pontiac Sunfire  $16,725  $14,225 
Mazda 5  $27,600  $22,150 
Toyota Corolla  $14,280  $13,000 
Honda Accord  $28,500  $25,370 
Volkswagen Jetta  $29,700  $27,350 
Subaru Outback  $32,450  $28,775 
(a) Calculate the median for the data on the retail prices for the above cars.
(b) Calculate the median for the data on the dealer’s costs for the above cars.
 Due to high winds, a small island in the Atlantic suffers frequent power outages. The following numbers represent the number of outages each month during the past year: What is the median number of monthly power outages?
 The Canadian Coast Guard has provided all of its auxiliary members with a list of 14 safety items (flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets, fire buckets, etc.) that must be aboard each boat at all times. During a recent check of 15 boats, the number of safety items that were aboard each boat was recorded as follows: What is the median number of safety items aboard the boats that were checked?
 A teacher’s assistant who has been substituting has been recording her biweekly wages for the past 13 pay periods. Her biweekly wages during this time were the following: What is her median biweekly wage?
Image Attributions
Description
Learning Objectives
Here you'll learn how to determine the median of a set of numerical data when there is an odd number of values and an even number of values in realworld contexts. You'll also learn why it is better to use the median than the mean as a measure of central tendency when there are outliers in a set of data.