M3 (Mean, Median, Mode)

This statistical vignette was developed by Diana Garcia Silva, Michelle Weirathmueller, Steve Juliano, and Dax Soule


Mean, Median, and Mode are simple descriptive statistical method that assist in the representation, organization, and summarization of a dataset or scores of data of any size. A score is commonly identified as the average that is used to compare groups of individuals or between sets of data. The representation of the data is defined as central tendency, where the goal is to describe a single score that best represents all the individual values within the center of a distribution.

Learning Objectives

  • Define the differences between each central measure (Mean, Median, and Mode) and describe how each is calculated
  • Determine the three M's position within a distribution
  • Explain how outliers affect each measure of center
  • Identify the importance of summarizing data using central tendency

Context for Use

This vignette can be used in either a single lab or lecture session and should take between 15 and 20 minutes for introductory or intermediate level students.

The vignette could be utilized in a variety of modules to summarize data of various sizes and to describe a single value that represents the data's overall distribution. Modules for consideration include Lake Phenology to assess the changing impact on ice cover, species susceptibility in Climate Drivers of Phenology, and assessing water quality parameters in the Water Quality Module.

Suggested Modules

Lake Ice PhenologyClimate Drivers of PhenologyWater Quality

Description and Materials

View the PowerPoint file and the instructor notes to help engage students during the presentation of the vignette.

StatVignette05_M3_v02_10_21_2020.pptx (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3.8MB Dec23 21)

Click to view


1. Gravetta, Frederick J and Wallnau, Larry B. Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences. (2015). 10th Edition. Chapter 6, 68-92. Cengage Learning. Print.

2. Healey, Joseph F. Statistics: A Tool for Social Research. (2012). 9th Edition, p. 72. Cengage Learning. Print.