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Teaching the Concept of "Average"

Date: 03/30/97 at 19:00:06
From: Bob and Wendy Bucci
Subject: Explanation of Average

Dear Dr. Math,

How do I explain what an "average" is to a group of 4th graders? 
I have taught them how to find an average, but I can't figure 
out how to explain what one is.

Date: 03/31/97 at 18:16:34
From: Doctor Jodi
Subject: Re: Explanation of Average

Hi there!

I think taking examples from their own experience would probably 
be helpful. What about measuring each one of them and making 
some charts and graphs about their heights? Then you could apply 
the formula for the average to find the average height of all 
the students in the class. You might also find the average 
height with yours included. Usually (unless you're short like I 
am) this will skew the results to be give a larger height than 
you'd expect. 

Discussing how to get around this problem would be a good lead-in 
to talking about median (the middle number), mode (the number that 
appears the most often in the set), frequency (how many times each 
height appears), and other statistical terms as ways to figure out 
how tall the "average"  person in the class is.

Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

-Doctor Jodi,  The Math Forum
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Associated Topics:
Middle School Statistics

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