Estimating is a basic skill required to derive suitable inference from a large data set. At the academic level, we learn about subitizing as a preschooler. Moving to more complex data sets, we switch from subitizing to estimating. Finding average is one of the estimation methods that help us represent a large data set with a single value.
As explained in our post on Mean, Mode, and Median in healthcare, the average is the total sum of the values divided by the total number of values. Averaging helps to make various important decisions by making a rough estimate. A simple example will be the average diet of family members. We, right at the home, estimate the average daily diet and then order groceries to ensure sufficient supplies at home throughout the month. It is one of the most basic examples of averages in everyday life.
Let’s move to other suitable examples that tell how averages help us solve various real-life problems.
Common examples of averages
We do several mental math calculations in our daily life without realizing it. The average finding is one of them. A few of the most common applications of averages are:
1. Averages in Education
The academic institutes and recruiters lay down the qualifying criteria to pick the most-suited candidates. On educational grounds, they look for average marks obtained in a group of subjects to filter the right candidates from the horde of applicants. The average of marks is also used to assign the class rank and ascertain a student’s eligibility for various branches of study. While designing IEP goals, the students’ average IQ or assessment scores are calculated to affirm the need.
Finding average drop-outs from schools is an important assessment that helps dig deeper into the trend and devise strategies to reduce the instances. Similarly, the average of students per class is another figure that schools find to plan expenses and revenues.
Students may calculate the average time required to complete a topic. Using this information, they can estimate the total time required to prepare for an exam. Accordingly, they can design their study timetable.
2. Examples of Average in financial planning
An average is the center point of any data set. It is also known by the term ‘mean’. The mean or average value in financial planning is implied in calculating average monthly expenditure calculation. Taking into account the expenditures of the previous year, the financial planners can design the budget for the next year. Average expenditure value also helps find how much savings one can make in a year.
3. General cases where average calculation helps
Any data set that has minimal difference among its various values can be represented with an average value. There are several general use cases where the information of average value helps. Examples are:
- Finding mileage of a vehicle: Using the speed and distance data, makers find the mileage of the vehicles and advertise it as a selling point
- Defining income groups: Calculating average household income is used to determine the low, middle and high net worth income groups in a society.
- Calculating TV viewership: The concept of average is applied in finding how many hours the people watch TV, which may help advertisers buy media space profitably.
- Trends analysis in sports: Average goals per match, average runs scored by a batsman, etc. are some of the values analysts consider for drawing trends in sports performance.
Average values as used in mathematics
Not all data sets can be represented correctly using average or mean. Some data sets have values that differ largely and a few others have some values that occur most frequently. Finding average value in such data sets may require other averaging methods such as mode and median.
Mode is the closest to accurate estimation of data values when a single value dominates the characteristics of the data set. For example, when a machine stays idle for different hours in a day, the evaluators may find the most accurate frequency of instances by finding mode. If the idle hours in a week read like 4,5,5,5,5,2,4, then mode value 5 hours helps find the weekly average quite appropriately.
Median is another average value that corresponds to the mid-value of a data-set. It offers the best representation of the average when the data needs to be sorted first. For example, to find the average marks scored by a class, the median offers a more apt solution. Out of 20 as maximum, the scores may range from 0 to 20 for a class of 20 students. So, 0s, 2s, and other low marks can bring quite an erroneous deviation from the true average. Median can help find the average much close to a realistic figure.
Average and number-crunching skills
Average can help make good sense from the scattered data. In real life, the data does not come to us aligned in a sequence or pre-defined format. Approximation or estimation using average helps derive meaningful information from the numbers and make suitable decisions.
Statisticians and researchers need averaging methods like mean, mode, and median to understand the pattern. Hence, on growing up, if you strive to be a market researcher, you must pick up mean-calculation skills from the formative years. Since finding the mean of a data set requires you to be proficient in addition, multiplication facts, division, and mental math, you improve on number-crunching while gaining comfort with calculating the average.
While the knowledge of basic calculations equips students to perform fundamental math operations, the average offers real-life applications of these. By finding the averages, several strategic decisions become easier to make. Right from estimating the monthly household expense to designing infrastructural projects at the country level, there is hardly any field where one does not stumble upon the examples of average. Think of more examples and share with us how you have used average in your daily life.
I am Pratiksha Bhatt, Bachelor of Life Science, and Masters in Management Studies. I have done certification courses in early education counseling. I am a writer, a mother of a child with spelling difficulties which drove me to alternative resources of education like manipulatives and participatory activities. My areas of expertise are learning difficulties, alternative learning methods, and activity-based learning.