• # On what basis is 'an average' calculated?

Very often we come across this usage or similar ones. The student's performance in the examination was not up to expectations, it was below the average; on an average, these employees get a sum of rupees three hundred and fifty a day; this year's rainfall was far above the average; the average speed of the vehicles is limited to fifty km per hour; he is an average speaker and so on.

These types of comments are very familiar to all of us. Even without any explanation all of us accept the statements. But we do not try to analyze the word 'average'. What exact information we are getting from these statements? An average is actually a measuring point, by which we understand that many are below that level and many above. If the character under consideration is countable or measurable one, the average can be calculated. But if it is commenting on a performance or skin colors of individuals, in what way do we state that it is average? And again if it is referring to collections of numerical data, to which average the reference is made may be doubted.
• It is true that we use the term average quite often. When we are talking about quantities, it must have some figures. For example, in the case of average rainfall, it is calculated how much rainwater is accumulated each day multiplied by 30 days. Now dividing this total amount by 30, we get the average rainfall of that month. Now by calculating this average during the monsoon period for quite a number of years will give us a specific value. If the next year, during that particular period the amount of rainfall is much greater than the value we measured till previous year, we say it is above average. Similarly, if it is less we say it is below average.

In case of performance of a student, the term average doesn't hold good. I think people try to mean that the student neither scored very good marks nor failed. The score is somewhere in between. Maybe out of 100, the student scored somewhere in the 40-50 range. Many a time we say the term but do not know what is this average value. In case of the average speaker, maybe people refer to a person who is neither a good orator nor an absolute dull. He can just say what is required at that moment. Actually, in many cases, the term average is used to mean that something is neither very good nor very bad. It's somewhere in the middle.

Sankalan

"Life is easier when you enjoy what you do"

• It happens we use the average word in many things when these things are even not measurable. Actually, it depends on the person what does average means to him/her. If we talk about "he is an average speaker" it means he is neither good nor bad. Sometimes we don't say someone bad we say he is average as we don't want to demoralise the person.
Sanjeev

" It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not" ... Andre Gide

• A very interesting observation by the author regarding the use of the word 'average'.

During the evolution of a language the writers use different words in different context and sometime the same word is used in varied forms which generates its frequent use in other context also. The same word sometimes used as a part of the phrase or idiom brings out a new meaning.

This flexibility in the evolution of a language finally makes a word to be used in various situations bringing out different meanings. So there are many words which have been used in this fashion and gradually it is accepted by the lexicographers and has been included in the dictionary also.

Knowledge is power.

• Being a Statistician, who taught the subject for more than 35 years I had to explain the word 'average ' in different contexts. Must be known to many of you that the average is generally taken as the Arithmetic mean of given observations. But if the data do not refer to quantitative measurements this cannot be applied. There we use another average measure called Median. Like that there are average measurements like Mode, Geometric mean and Harmonic mean. All these are representing an average.
tmsankaran

• May be this relates the expectations against the performances delivered. If the result achieved is as expected than above average & if not than its below average. For sure this is different when we take this on statistical terms wherein this is considered as the 50% of the total value. Considering this, this can be used in qualitative as well as on quantitative terms & than we are again bound by the different perceptions to use this in different ways.

• The use of the word 'average' is very frequent. But actually, nobody means the mathematical meaning of the word. When we ask a student after coming out of the examination hall about his performance we hear the answer as average. Probably he means that he may not get very good marks. At the same time, he wants to convey that there is no problem for him to pass the examination. He may get above the pass mark but not a very good mark. In that contest, they may be using the word average.
When we enquire about a movie, he may reply as average. Here also probably he wants to convey to us that not to have very high expectation at the same time we need not write off that movie. Like this, the word is used on many occasions. The mathematical way of calculating an average requires certain data whereas in these cases there is no such data available.

drrao
always confident

• In maths average is used in simple arithmetical sense. In other places it is used to show departure from the historical average.

It is only a way to impress upon the variations from the normal expected values.

Thoughts exchanged is knowledge gained.