in Probability and Statistics.
An average is a single value that is meant to typify a list of values. If all the numbers in the list are the same, then this number should be used. If the numbers are not all the same, an easy way to get a representative value from a list is to randomly pick any number from the list. However, the word 'average' is usually reserved for more sophisticated methods that are generally found to be more useful.
The most common type of average is the arithmetic mean, often simply called the mean. The arithmetic mean of two numbers, such as 2 and 8, is obtained by finding a value A such that 2 + 8 = A + A. It is then simple to find that A = (2 + 8)/2 = 5. Switching the order of 2 and 8 to read 8 and 2 does not change the resulting value obtained for A. The mean 5 is not less than the minimum 2 nor greater than the maximum 8. If we increase the number of terms in the list for which we want an average, we get, for example, that the arithmetic mean of 2, 8, and 11 is found by solving for the value of A in the equation 2 + 8 + 11 = A + A + A. It is simple to find that A = (2 + 8 + 11)/3 = 7.
Again, changing the order of the three members of the list does not change the result: A = (8 + 11 + 2)/3 = 7, and that 7 is between 2 and 11. This summation method is easily generalized for lists with any number of elements. However, the mean of a list of integers is not necessarily an integer. "The average family has 1.7 children" is a jarring way of making a statement that is more appropriately expressed by "the average number of children in the collection of families examined is 1.7".
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