Next section: Mode

The median is the middle of a distribution: half the scores are above the median and half are below the median. The median is less sensitive to extreme scores than the mean and this makes it a better measure than the mean for highly skewed distributions. The median income is usually more informative than the mean income, for example.

The sum of the absolute deviations of each number from the median is lower than is the sum of absolute deviations from any other number. Click here for an example.

The mean, median, and mode are equal in symmetric distributions. The mean is typically higher than the median in positively skewed distributions and lower than the median in negatively skewed distributions, although this may not be the case in bimodal distributions. Click here for examples.

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.

See also: Sampling distribution of the median

Next section: Mode