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Accuracy and Precision

They mean slightly different things!

Accuracy
Accuracy is how close a measured value is to the actual (true) value.

Precision
Precision is how close the measured values are to each other.

Examples of Precision and Accuracy:

Low Accuracy
High Precision

High Accuracy
Low Precision

High Accuracy
High Precision

So, if you are playing soccer and you always hit the left goal post
instead of scoring, then you are not accurate, but you are precise!

How to Remember?

aCcurate is Correct (a bullseye).

pRecise is Repeating (hitting the same spot, but maybe not the
correct spot)

Bias (don't let precision fool you!)


When we measure something several times and all values are close,
they may all be wrong if there is a "Bias"
Bias is a systematic (built-in) error which makes all measurements
wrong by a certain amount.

Examples of Bias

The scales read "1 kg" when there is nothing on them

You always measure your height wearing shoes with thick soles.

A stopwatch that takes half a second to stop when clicked

In each case all measurements are wrong by the same amount. That is
bias.

Degree of Accuracy
Accuracy depends on the instrument we are measuring with. But as a
general rule:
The degree of accuracy is half a unit each side of the unit of measure

Examples:

When an instrument measures in "1"s


any value between 6 and 7 is measured as "7"

When an instrument measures in "2"s


any value between 7 and 9 is measured as "8"

(Notice that the arrow points to the same spot, but the measured values
are different!

Errors in Measurement
Error?
No ... you didn't measure it wrong ... this is
about accuracy.
Measuring instruments are not exact!

Degree of Accuracy
Accuracy depends on the instrument you are measuring with. But as a
general rule:
The degree of accuracy is half a unit each side of the unit of measure

Examples:

When your instrument measures in "1"s


then any value between 6 and 7 is measured
as "7"

When your instrument measures in "2"s


then any value between 7 and 9 is measured as "8"

Plus or Minus
We can show the error using the "Plus or Minus" sign:

When the value could be between 6 and 7

7 0.5
The error is 0.5

When the value could be between 7 and 9

8 1
The error is 1

Example: a fence is measured as 12.5 meters long, accurate


to 0.1 of a meter
Accurate to 0.1 m means it could be up to 0.05 m either way:

Length = 12.5 0.05 m


So it could really be anywhere between 12.45 m and 12.55 m long.

Absolute, Relative and Percentage Error


The Absolute Error is the difference between
the actual and measured value

But ... when measuring we don't know the actual value! So we


use the maximum possible error.
In the example above the Absolute Error is 0.05 m
What happened to the ... ? Well, we just want the size
(the absolute value ) of the difference.
The Relative Error is the Absolute Error divided by the actual
measurement.
We don't know the actual measurement, so the best we can do
is use the measured value:

Relative Error =

Absolute Error

Measured Value
The Percentage Error is the Relative Error shown as a
percentage (see Percentage Error).
Let us see them in an example:

Example: fence (continued)


Length = 12.5 0.05 m
So:

Absolute Error = 0.05 m


And:

Relative Error =
And:

0.05 m
12.5 m

= 0.004

Percentage Error = 0.4%

More examples:

Example: The thermometer measures to the nearest 2


degrees. The temperature was measured as 38 C
The temperature could be up to 1 either side of 38 (i.e. between 37
and 39)

Temperature = 38 1
So:

Absolute Error = 1
And:

Relative Error =

1
38

= 0.0263...

And:

Percentage Error = 2.63...%

Example: You measure the plant to be 80 cm high (to the


nearest cm)
This means you could be up to 0.5 cm wrong (the plant could be
between 79.5 and 80.5 cm high)

Height = 80 0.5 cm
So:

Absolute Error = 0.5 cm


And:

Relative Error =

0.5 cm
80 cm

= 0.00625

And:

Percentage Error = 0.625%

Area
When working out areas you need to think about both the width and
length ... they could both be the smallest possible measure, or both the
largest.

Example: Alex measured the field to the nearest meter, and


got a width of 6 m and a length of 8 m.
Measuring to the nearest meter means the true value could be up
to half a meter smaller or larger.

The width (w) could be from 5.5m to 6.5m:

5.5 w < 6.5


The length (l) could be from 7.5m to 8.5m:

7.5 l < 8.5


The area is width length:

A=wl
The smallest possible area is: 5.5m 7.5m = 41.25 m2
The measured area is: 6m 8m = 48 m2
And the largest possible area is: 6.5m 8.5m = 55.25 m2

41.25 A < 55.25


Absolute, Relative and Percentage Error for Areas
The only tricky thing here is ... which is the absolute error?

From 41.25 to 48 = 6.75

From 48 to 55.25 = 7.25

Answer: pick the biggest one! So:

Absolute Error = 7.25 m2


Relative Error =

7.25 m2
48 m2

= 0.151...

Percentage Error = 15.1%


(Which is not very accurate, is it?)

Volume
And volume has three measurements: width, length and height!

Example: Sam measured the box to the nearest 2 cm, and


got 24 cm 24 cm 20 cm
Measuring to the nearest 2 cm means the true value could be up to 1
cm smaller or larger.
The three measurements are:

24 1 cm

24 1 cm

20 1 cm

Volume is width length height:

V=wlh
The smallest possible Volume is: 23cm 23cm 19cm = 10051 cm3
The measured Volume is: 24cm 24cm 20cm = 11520 cm3
The largest possible Volume is: 25cm 25cm 21cm = 13125 cm3

And so we get:

10051 V < 13125

Absolute, Relative and Percentage Error for Volumes


Absolute error:

From 10051 to 11520 = 1469

From 11520 to 13125 = 1605

Pick the biggest one:

Absolute Error = 1605 cm3


Relative Error =

1605 cm3
11520 cm3

= 0.139...

Percentage Error = 13.9%

Absolute Value
Absolute Value means ...
... only how far a number is from zero:

"6" is 6 away from zero,


and "6" is also 6 away from zero.
So the absolute value of 6 is 6,
and the absolute value of 6 is also 6

More Examples:

The absolute value of 9 is 9

The absolute value of 3 is 3

The absolute value of 0 is 0

The absolute value of 156 is 156

No Negatives!
So in practice "absolute value" means to remove any negative sign in
front of a number, and to think of all numbers as positive (or zero).

Absolute Value Symbol

To show that we want the absolute value of something, we put "|" marks
either side (they are called "bars" and are found on the right side of a
keyboard), like these examples:

|5| = 5

|7| = 7

Sometimes absolute value is also written as "abs()", so abs(1) = 1 is


the same as |1| = 1

Try It Yourself
2015 MathsIsFun.com v0.77

Subtract Either Way Around


And it doesn't matter which way around we do a subtraction, the
absolute value will always be the same:

|83| = 5

|38| = 5

(83 = 5)

(38 = 5, and |5| = 5)

More Examples
Here are some more examples of how to handle absolute values:

|36| = 18
(36 = 18, and |18| = 18)

|52| = 3
(52 = 3 and then the first minus gets you 3)

|25| = 3
(25 = 3 , |3| = 3, and then the first minus gets you 3)

|12| = 12
(|12| = 12 and then the first minus gets you 12)

Percentage Error

The difference between Approximate and Exact Values,


as a percentage of the Exact Value.

Comparing Approximate to Exact


"Error": Subtract Approximate value from Exact value. Ignore any minus sign.
Example: I estimated 260 people, but 325 came.
260 325 = 65, ignore the "" sign, so my error is 65

"Percentage Error": show the error as a percent of the exact value ... so
divide by the exact value and make it a percentage:
65/325 = 0.2 = 20%

Percentage Error is all about comparing a guess or estimate to an exact


value. See percentage change, difference and error for other options.

How to Calculate
Here is the way to calculate a percentage error:
Step 1: Calculate the error (subtract one value from the other) ignore any minus sign.
Step 2: Divide the error by the exact value (we get a decimal number)
Step 3: Convert that to a percentage (by multiplying by 100 and adding a "%" sign)

As A Formula
This is the formula for "Percentage Error":

|Approximate Value Exact Value|


100%
|Exact Value|
(The "|" symbols mean absolute value , so negatives become positive)

Example: I thought 70 people would turn up to the concert, but in fact


80 did!
|70 80||80| 100% = 1080 100% = 12.5%
I was in error by 12.5%
Example: The report said the carpark held 240 cars, but we counted only
200 parking spaces.
|240 200||200| 100% = 40200 100% = 20%
The report had a 20% error.
We can also use a theoretical value (when it is well known) instead of
an exact value.

Example: Sam does an experiment to find how long it takes


an apple to drop 2 meters.
The theoretical value (using physics formulas) is 0.64 seconds.
But Sam measures 0.62 seconds, which is an approximate value.
|0.62 0.64||0.64| 100% = 0.020.64 100%

= 3% (to nearest 1%)

So Sam was only 3% off.

Without "Absolute Value"


We can also use the formula without "Absolute Value". This can give a
positive or negative result, which may be useful to know.
Approximate Value Exact Value
100%
Exact Value
Example: They forecast 20 mm of rain, but we really got 25 mm.
20 2525 100% = 525 100%

= 20%
They were in error by 20% (their estimate was too low)

In Measurement
Measuring instruments are not exact!
And we can use Percentage Error to estimate the possible error when
measuring.

Example: You measure the plant to be 80 cm high (to the


nearest cm)

This means you could be up to 0.5 cm wrong (the plant could be


between 79.5 and 80.5 cm high)
So your percentage error is:
0.580 100% = 0.625%
(We don't know the exact value, so we divided by the measured value
instead.)

Standard Deviation and Variance


Deviation just means how far from the normal

Standard Deviation
The Standard Deviation is a measure of how spread out numbers are.
Its symbol is (the greek letter sigma)
The formula is easy: it is the square root of the Variance. So now you
ask, "What is the Variance?"

Variance
The Variance is defined as:
The average of the squared differences from the Mean.
To calculate the variance follow these steps:

Work out the Mean (the simple average of the numbers)

Then for each number: subtract the Mean and square the
result (the squared difference).

Then work out the average of those squared differences.


(Why Square?)

Example
You and your friends have just measured the heights of your dogs (in
millimeters):

The heights (at the shoulders) are: 600mm, 470mm, 170mm, 430mm
and 300mm.
Find out the Mean, the Variance, and the Standard Deviation.
Your first step is to find the Mean:

Answer:
Mean = 600 + 470 + 170 + 430 + 3005 = 19705 = 394
so the mean (average) height is 394 mm. Let's plot this on the chart:

Now we calculate each dog's difference from the Mean:

To calculate the Variance, take each difference, square it, and then
average the result:

So the Variance is 21,704


And the Standard Deviation is just the square root of Variance, so:

Standard Deviation
= 21,704
= 147.32...
= 147 (to the nearest mm)

And the good thing about the Standard Deviation is that it is useful. Now
we can show which heights are within one Standard Deviation (147mm)

of the Mean:

So, using the Standard Deviation we have a "standard" way of knowing


what is normal, and what is extra large or extra small.
Rottweilers are tall dogs. And Dachshunds are a bit short ... but don't
tell them!
Now try the Standard Deviation Calculator .

But ... there is a small change


with Sample Data
Our example has been for a Population (the 5 dogs are the only dogs
we are interested in).
But if the data is a Sample (a selection taken from a bigger Population),
then the calculation changes!

When you have "N" data values that are:

The Population: divide by N when calculating Variance


(like we did)

A Sample: divide by N-1 when calculating Variance

All other calculations stay the same, including how we calculated the
mean.

Example: if our 5 dogs are just a sample of a bigger population of dogs,


we divide by 4 instead of 5 like this:

Sample Variance = 108,520 / 4 = 27,130


Sample Standard Deviation = 27,130 = 164 (to the nearest
mm)
Think of it as a "correction" when your data is only a sample.

Formulas
Here are the two formulas, explained at Standard Deviation Formulas if
you want to know more:

The "Population Standard Deviation":

The "Sample Standard Deviation":

Looks complicated, but the important change is to


divide by N-1 (instead of N) when calculating a Sample Variance.

*Footnote: Why square the differences?


If we just add up the differences from the mean ... the negatives cancel
the positives:

4 + 4 4 44 = 0

So that won't work. How about we use absolute values ?

|4| + |4| + |4| + |4|4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 44 = 4

That looks good (and is the Mean Deviation ), but what about this case:

|7| + |1| + |6| + |2|4 = 7 + 1 + 6 + 24 = 4

Oh No! It also gives a value of 4, Even though the differences are more
spread out.
So let us try squaring each difference (and taking the square root at the
end):

(42 + 42 + 42 + 424) = (644) = 4

(72 + 12 + 62 + 224) = (904) = 4.74...

That is nice! The Standard Deviation is bigger when the differences are
more spread out ... just what we want.
In fact this method is a similar idea to distance between points , just
applied in a different way.
And it is easier to use algebra on squares and square roots than absolute
values, which makes the standard deviation easy to use in other areas of
mathematics.

distance Between 2 Points


Here is how to calculate the distance between two points when you know
their coordinates:

Let us call the two points

A and B

We can run lines down from

A, and along from B, to make a

Angled Triangle .
And with a little help from Pythagoras we know that:

a2 + b2 = c2

Right

Now label the coordinates of points A and B.

xA means the x-coordinate of point A


yA means the y-coordinate of point A
The horizontal distance
The vertical distance

Now we can solve for

a is (xA xB)

b is (yA yB)

c (the distance between the points):


Start with:

Put in the calculations for a and b:

And the final result:

Examples
Example 1

c2 = a2 + b2

c2 = (xA xB)2 + (yA yB)2

Fill in the values:

Example 2
It doesn't matter what order the points are in, because squaring
removes any negatives:

Fill in the values:

Example 3
And here is another example with some negative coordinates ... it all still
works:

Fill in the values:

(Note 136 can be further simplified to 234 if you want)

Three or More Dimensions


It works perfectly well in 3 (or more dimensions) !
Square the difference for each axis, then sum them up and take the
square root:

The distance between the two points (9,2,7) and (4,8,10) is:

istances of each value from their mean.


Yes, we use "mean" twice: Find the mean ... use it to work out
distances ... then find the mean of those distances!
Three steps:

1. Find the mean of all values

2. Find the distance of each value from that mean (subtract the
mean from each value, ignore minus signs)

3. Then find the mean of those distances

Like this:

Example: the Mean Deviation of 3, 6, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16


Step 1: Find the mean:
Mean = 3 + 6 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 11 + 15 + 16 = 72 = 9

Step 2: Find the distance of each value from that mean:

Value

Distance
from 9

11

15

16

Which looks like this:

Step 3. Find the mean of those distances:


Mean Deviation =

6+3+3+2+1+2+6+7
8

30
8

= 3.75

So, the mean = 9, and the mean deviation = 3.75


It tells us how far, on average, all values are from the middle.
In that example the values are, on average, 3.75 away from the middle.
For deviation just think distance

Formula
The formula is:

Mean Deviation =

|x - |
N

Let's learn more about those symbols!


Firstly:

is the mean (in our example = 9)

x is each value (such as 3 or 16)

N is the number of values (in our example N = 8)

Absolute Deviation
Each distance we calculated is called an Absolute Deviation, because it
is the Absolute Value of the deviation (how far from the mean).

To show "Absolute Value" we put "|" marks either side


like this: |-3| = 3
For any value x:

Absolute Deviation = |x - |

From our example, the value 16 has Absolute Deviation = |x - | =


|16 - 9| = |7| = 7
And now let's add them all up ...

Sigma

The symbol for "Sum Up" is (called Sigma Notation ), so we have:

Sum of Absolute Deviations = |x - |


Divide by how many values N and we have:

Mean Deviation =

|x - |
N

Let's do our example again, using the proper symbols:

Example: the Mean Deviation of 3, 6, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16


Step 1: Find the mean:
=

3 + 6 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 11 + 15 + 16
8

Step 2: Find the Absolute Deviations:

|x - |

11

15

16

|x - | = 30

Step 3. Find the Mean Deviation:

72
8

=9

Mean Deviation =

|x - |
N

30

= 3.75

Note: the mean deviation is sometimes called the Mean Absolute


Deviation (MAD) because it is the mean of the absolute deviations.

What Does It "Mean" ?


Mean Deviation tells us how far, on average, all values are from the
middle.
Here is an example (using the same data as on the Standard
Deviation page):

Example: You and your friends have just measured the


heights of your dogs (in millimeters):

The heights (at the shoulders) are: 600mm, 470mm, 170mm, 430mm
and 300mm.

Step 1: Find the mean:


=

600 + 470 + 170 + 430 + 300


5

Step 2: Find the Absolute Deviations:

1970
5

= 394

|x - |

600

206

470

76

170

224

430

36

300

94

|x - | = 636

Step 3. Find the Mean Deviation:

Mean Deviation =

|x - |
N

636
5

= 127.2

So, on average, the dogs' heights are 127.2 mm from the mean.
(Compare that with the Standard Deviation of 147 mm)

A Useful Check
The deviations on one side of the mean should equal the deviations on
the other side.
From our first example:

Example: 3, 6, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16


The deviations are:

6+3+3+2+1 = 2+6+7
15 = 15
Likewise:

Example: Dogs
Deviations left of mean: 224 + 94 = 318
Deviations right of mean: 206 + 76 + 36 = 318
If they are not equal ... you may have made a mistake!

Absolute Value
Absolute Value means ...
... only how far a number is from zero:

"6" is 6 away from zero,


and "6" is also 6 away from zero.
So the absolute value of 6 is 6,
and the absolute value of 6 is also 6

More Examples:

The absolute value of 9 is 9

The absolute value of 3 is 3

The absolute value of 0 is 0

The absolute value of 156 is 156

No Negatives!
So in practice "absolute value" means to remove any negative sign in
front of a number, and to think of all numbers as positive (or zero).

Absolute Value Symbol


To show that we want the absolute value of something, we put "|" marks
either side (they are called "bars" and are found on the right side of a
keyboard), like these examples:

|5| = 5

|7| = 7

Sometimes absolute value is also written as "abs()", so abs(1) = 1 is


the same as |1| = 1

Try It Yourself
2015 MathsIsFun.com v0.77

Subtract Either Way Around


And it doesn't matter which way around we do a subtraction, the
absolute value will always be the same:

|83| = 5

|38| = 5

(83 = 5)

(38 = 5, and |5| = 5)

More Examples
Here are some more examples of how to handle absolute values:

|36| = 18
(36 = 18, and |18| = 18)

|52| = 3
(52 = 3 and then the first minus gets you 3)

|25| = 3
(25 = 3 , |3| = 3, and then the first minus gets you 3)

|12| = 12
(|12| = 12 and then the first minus gets you 12)

Standard Deviation Formulas


Deviation just means how far from the normal

Standard Deviation
The Standard Deviation is a measure of how spread out numbers are.
You might like to read this simpler page on Standard Deviation first.
But here we explain the formulas.
The symbol for Standard Deviation is (the Greek letter sigma).
This is the formula for Standard Deviation:

Say what? Please explain!


OK. Let us explain it step by step.
Say we have a bunch of numbers like 9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7, 8, 11.
To calculate the standard deviation of those numbers:

1. Work out the Mean (the simple average of the numbers)

2. Then for each number: subtract the Mean and square the
result

3. Then work out the mean of those squared differences.

4. Take the square root of that and we are done!

The formula actually says all of that, and I will show you how.

The Formula Explained


First, let us have some example values to work on:

Example: Sam has 20 Rose Bushes.


The number of flowers on each bush is

9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7, 8, 11, 9, 3, 7, 4, 12, 5, 4, 10, 9, 6, 9, 4


Work out the Standard Deviation.

Step 1. Work out the mean


In the formula above

(the greek letter "mu") is the

mean of all our

values ...

Example: 9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7, 8, 11, 9, 3, 7, 4, 12, 5, 4, 10, 9,


6, 9, 4

The mean is:


9+2+5+4+12+7+8+11+9+3+7+4+12+5+4+10+9+6+9+420
= 14020 = 7
So:

=7

Step 2. Then for each number: subtract the Mean and square
the result
This is the part of the formula that says:

So what is xi ? They are the individual x values 9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7, etc...


In other words x1 = 9, x2 = 2, x3 = 5, etc.
So it says "for each value, subtract the mean and square the result", like
this

Example (continued):
(9 - 7)2 = (2)2 = 4
(2 - 7)2 = (-5)2 = 25
(5 - 7)2 = (-2)2 = 4
(4 - 7)2 = (-3)2 = 9
(12 - 7)2 = (5)2 = 25
(7 - 7)2 = (0)2 = 0

(8 - 7)2 = (1)2 = 1
... etc ...
And we get these results:

4, 25, 4, 9, 25, 0, 1, 16, 4, 16, 0, 9, 25, 4, 9, 9, 4, 1, 4, 9

Step 3. Then work out the mean of those squared differences.


To work out the mean, add up all the values then divide by how
many.
First add up all the values from the previous step.
But how do we say "add them all up" in mathematics? We use
"Sigma":
The handy Sigma Notation says to sum up as many terms as we want:

Sigma Notation
We want to add up all the values from 1 to N, where N=20 in our case
because there are 20 values:

Example (continued):

Which means: Sum all values from (x1-7)2 to (xN-7)2

We already calculated (x1-7)2=4 etc. in the previous step, so just sum


them up:

= 4+25+4+9+25+0+1+16+4+16+0+9+25+4+9+9+4+1+4+9
= 178
But that isn't the mean yet, we need to divide by how many, which is
simply done by multiplying by "1/N":

Example (continued):

Mean of squared differences = (1/20) 178 = 8.9


(Note: this value is called the "Variance")

Step 4. Take the square root of that:


Example (concluded):

= (8.9) = 2.983...
DONE!

Sample Standard Deviation

But wait, there is more ...


... sometimes our data is only a sample of the whole population.

Example: Sam has 20 rose bushes, but only counted the


flowers on 6 of them!
The "population" is all 20 rose bushes,
and the "sample" is the 6 bushes that Sam counted the flowers of.
Let us say Sam's flower counts are:

9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7
We can still estimate the Standard Deviation.
But when we use the sample as an estimate of the whole population,
the Standard Deviation formula changes to this:
The formula for Sample Standard Deviation:

The important change is "N-1" instead of "N" (which is called


"Bessel's correction").
The symbols also change to reflect that we are working on a sample
instead of the whole population:

The mean is now

x (for sample mean) instead of (the population

mean),

And the answer is s (for Sample Standard Deviation) instead of .

But that does not affect the calculations. Only N-1 instead of N
changes the calculations.

OK, let us now calculate the Sample Standard Deviation:

Step 1. Work out the mean


Example 2: Using sampled values 9, 2, 5, 4, 12, 7
The mean is (9+2+5+4+12+7) / 6 = 39/6 = 6.5
So:

x = 6.5

Step 2. Then for each number: subtract the Mean and square
the result
Example 2 (continued):
(9 - 6.5)2 = (2.5)2 = 6.25
(2 - 6.5)2 = (-4.5)2 = 20.25
(5 - 6.5)2 = (-1.5)2 = 2.25
(4 - 6.5)2 = (-2.5)2 = 6.25
(12 - 6.5)2 = (5.5)2 = 30.25
(7 - 6.5)2 = (0.5)2 = 0.25

Step 3. Then work out the mean of those squared differences.


To work out the mean, add up all the values then divide by how
many.
But hang on ... we are calculating the Sample Standard Deviation, so
instead of dividing by how many (N), we will divide by N-1

Example 2 (continued):
Sum = 6.25 + 20.25 + 2.25 + 6.25 + 30.25 + 0.25 = 65.5
Divide by N-1: (1/5) 65.5 = 13.1
(This value is called the "Sample Variance")

Step 4. Take the square root of that:


Example 2 (concluded):

s = (13.1) = 3.619...
DONE!

Comparing
When we used the whole population we got: Mean = 7, Standard
Deviation = 2.983...

When we used the sample we got: Sample Mean = 6.5, Sample


Standard Deviation = 3.619...
Our Sample Mean was wrong by 7%, and our Sample Standard
Deviation was wrong by 21%.

Why Take a Sample?


Mostly because it is easier and cheaper.
Imagine you want to know what the whole country thinks ... you can't
ask millions of people, so instead you ask maybe 1,000 people.
There is a nice quote (possibly by Samuel Johnson):
"You don't have to eat the whole ox to know that the meat is tough."
This is the essential idea of sampling. To find out information about the
population (such as mean and standard deviation), we do not need to
look at all members of the population; we only need a sample.
But when we take a sample, we lose some accuracy.

Summary
The Population Standard Deviation:

The Sample Standard Deviation:

Standard Deviation Calculator


Here are the step-by-step calculations to work out the Standard
Deviation (see below for formulas).
Enter your numbers below, the answer is calculated "live":

Standard Deviation Calculator


Numbers:

Is that the whole Population or a Sample?

First, work out the average, or arithmetic mean, of the numbers:


Count:

5
(How many numbers)

Sum:

13
(All the numbers added up)

Mean:

2.6
(Arithmetic mean = Sum / Count)

Then, take each number, subtract the mean and square the result:
Differences:

(Every Number minus the Mean)

Differences2:

(Square of each difference)

Now calculate the Variance:

109.2

Sum of Differences2:

(Add up the Squared Differences)

21.84

Variance:

(Sum of Differences2 / Count)

Lastly, take the square root of the Variance:


Standard Deviation:

4.673328578
(The square root of the Variance)
2015 MathsIsFun.com v0.75

When your data is the whole population


the formula is:
(The "Population Standard Deviation")
When your data is a sample the formula
is:
(The "Sample Standard Deviation")
The important difference is "N-1" instead of "N" ...

Standard Deviation and Variance


Deviation just means how far from the normal

Standard Deviation
The Standard Deviation is a measure of how spread out numbers are.
Its symbol is (the greek letter sigma)
The formula is easy: it is the square root of the Variance. So now you
ask, "What is the Variance?"

Variance
The Variance is defined as:
The average of the squared differences from the Mean.
To calculate the variance follow these steps:

Work out the Mean (the simple average of the numbers)

Then for each number: subtract the Mean and square the
result (the squared difference).

Then work out the average of those squared differences.


(Why Square?)

Example
You and your friends have just measured the heights of your dogs (in
millimeters):

The heights (at the shoulders) are: 600mm, 470mm, 170mm, 430mm
and 300mm.
Find out the Mean, the Variance, and the Standard Deviation.
Your first step is to find the Mean:

Answer:
Mean = 600 + 470 + 170 + 430 + 3005 = 19705 = 394
so the mean (average) height is 394 mm. Let's plot this on the chart:

Now we calculate each dog's difference from the Mean:

To calculate the Variance, take each difference, square it, and then
average the result:

So the Variance is 21,704


And the Standard Deviation is just the square root of Variance, so:

Standard Deviation

= 21,704

= 147.32...
= 147 (to the nearest mm)

And the good thing about the Standard Deviation is that it is useful. Now
we can show which heights are within one Standard Deviation (147mm)
of the Mean:

So, using the Standard Deviation we have a "standard" way of knowing


what is normal, and what is extra large or extra small.
Rottweilers are tall dogs. And Dachshunds are a bit short ... but don't
tell them!
Now try the Standard Deviation Calculator .

But ... there is a small change


with Sample Data
Our example has been for a Population (the 5 dogs are the only dogs
we are interested in).
But if the data is a Sample (a selection taken from a bigger Population),
then the calculation changes!

When you have "N" data values that are:

The Population: divide by N when calculating Variance (like


we did)

A Sample: divide by N-1 when calculating Variance


All other calculations stay the same, including how we calculated the
mean.
Example: if our 5 dogs are just a sample of a bigger population of dogs,
we divide by 4 instead of 5 like this:

Sample Variance = 108,520 / 4 = 27,130


Sample Standard Deviation = 27,130 = 164 (to the nearest
mm)
Think of it as a "correction" when your data is only a sample.

Formulas
Here are the two formulas, explained at Standard Deviation Formulas if
you want to know more:

The "Population Standard Deviation":

The "Sample Standard Deviation":

Looks complicated, but the important change is to


divide by N-1 (instead of N) when calculating a Sample Variance.

*Footnote: Why square the differences?

If we just add up the differences from the mean ... the negatives cancel
the positives:

4 + 4 4 44 = 0

So that won't work. How about we use absolute values ?

|4| + |4| + |4| + |4|4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 44 = 4

That looks good (and is the Mean Deviation ), but what about this case:

|7| + |1| + |6| + |2|4 = 7 + 1 + 6 + 24 = 4

Oh No! It also gives a value of 4, Even though the differences are more
spread out.
So let us try squaring each difference (and taking the square root at the
end):

(42 + 42 + 42 + 424) = (644) = 4

(72 + 12 + 62 + 224) = (904) = 4.74...

That is nice! The Standard Deviation is bigger when the differences are
more spread out ... just what we want.

In fact this method is a similar idea to distance between points , just


applied in a different way.
And it is easier to use algebra on squares and square roots than absolute
values, which makes the standard deviation easy to use in other areas of
mathematics.