I get the words mean, mode, median, and range mixed up in math. What do they all mean?

Like a lot of things in math class, the concept of averages is a bit more complex than it seems at first. The process that first comes to mind — take all the numbers in a sequence, add them up, and divide by the total number of items — is what your math teacher would call finding the mean.

But wait, there's more! Mean has a couple of cousins called the median, mode, and range (don't worry, they're very nice). All four methods have to do with finding the middle ground among a set of numbers, but now you have are a few more ways to go about it. Take a quick look at the three that are probably less familiar to you:

Median: The median of a set of numbers arranged in ascending or descending order is the middle number. How easy is that? For example:

Find the median of 3, 4, 6, 9, 21, 24, 56.
9 is the median
Note: If there is an even number of items in the set, their median is the arithmetic mean (average) of the middle two numbers.

Mode: The item in a list of numbers that appears most often is the mode. For example:

Find the mode of 3, 4, 8, 9, 9, 2, 6, 11.
The mode is 9 because it appears more often than any other number.

Range: The range is the difference between the largest and the smallest number in a set of numbers. For example:

Find the range of the following numbers: 3, 5, 7, 3, 2
7 - 2 = 5
The range is 5

Maybe now you can impress your math teacher with your new knowledge of averages so much that he or she will agree to figure your final grade based on the median, mode, or range this year. Then again, you'd better do the math first to see if that would really be desirable.