If you’re reading this you’re probably a bit geeky (like me), and you’ve no doubt been in at least 42 conversations about average vs. mean, etc, etc. So here’s a good summary of the basics for next time.

## First Things First: “Average” is a General Term

If you’ve ever been lobbed the question of “what’s the difference between the average and the mean?”, you (and perhaps the questioner too) might have fallen into a trap. A mean is a **type** of average, not an *alternative* to one.

**average**- –
*An average is a single value that is meant to typify a list of values.*

Average is a general class. It just means “let’s try and generalize the data given a set of data points”, and the (basic) mechanics for actually doing so are described with three other terms: *mean*, *median*, and *mode*.

**mean**- –
*A mean is attained by adding all values and dividing by the total number of values.*

Hey, wait–that sounds like an average, right? That’s because it is. That’s the whole point–they’re the same. A mean is a type of average, so when people are asked to give an average (a general idea of the data) they often give the mean. And what about *median* and *mode*?

**median**- –
*A median is described as the numeric value separating the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half.*

Simple enough. And what about *mode*?

**mode**- –
*The mode is the value that occurs the most frequently in a data set or a probability distribution.*

## Summary

- Means, medians, and modes are all types of averages.
- A mean is the one where you add them all up and divide by the number of values.
- The median is the value that separates the top half and bottom half.
- The mode is the value that is found most frequently in the set.

### Notes

- For more reading, do visit the [averages](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Average “Average – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”) page at Wikipedia.