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Statistics LibreTexts

3.0: Prelude to Descriptive Statistics

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  • Skills to Develop

    By the end of this chapter, the student should be able to:

    • Recognize, describe, and calculate the measures of the center of data: mean, median, and mode.
    • Recognize, describe, and calculate the measures of the spread of data: variance, standard deviation, and range.
    • Recognize, describe, and calculate the measures of location of data: quartiles, percentiles, and deciles.
    • Use quartiles to create a boxplot.

    Once you have collected data, what will you do with it? Data can be described and presented in many different formats. For example, suppose you are interested in buying a house in a particular area. You may have no clue about the house prices, so you might ask your real estate agent to give you a sample data set of prices. Looking at all the prices in the sample often is overwhelming. A better way might be to look at the median price and the variation of prices. The median and variation are just two ways that you will learn to describe data. Your agent might also provide you with a graph of the data.

    Figure 2.1.1: When you have large amounts of data, you will need to organize it in a way that makes sense. These ballots from an election are rolled together with similar ballots to keep them organized. (credit: William Greeson)

    Measures of center, spread and location are additional ways you can describe data. We will explore important measures and another graph called a box plot.

    This book contains instructions for constructing a histogram and a box plot for the TI-83+ and TI-84 calculators. The Texas Instruments (TI) website provides additional instructions for using these calculators.

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean (De Anza College) with many other contributing authors. Content produced by OpenStax College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. Download for free at