# Definitions

## Averages, Probability, and Reality

(Archive Question of the Week) Recently I discussed the definition of the median of a data set, pointing out how it needs refinements that are not often discussed. In searching for questions in our archive on that topic, I ran across a discussion of an opposite issue: the breadth of the general term “average”, which …

## Rounding to the Nearest: The Basics

We frequently get questions about how to round; so many different issues arise that I won’t try to fit them all into one post. Children have trouble learning how to do it, and sometimes their parents are surprised to find that they are being taught a different way than they learned. There are several common …

## What Operation Was She Doing?

(Archive question of the week) For Wednesdays, I plan to find a single interesting question from the past and discuss it. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Ask Dr. Math is getting questions I’d never have thought of on my own, but which lead to some fascinating ideas. Here is an old favorite from …

## What is the Median, Really?

From time to time we get questions about finding the median in statistics. Some are entirely routine; but the three I want to discuss today take us gradually deeper into a morass of ambiguity. A recurring theme of my experience in Ask Dr. Math has been that definitions are not always what they seem – …

## WHY Do We Add or Multiply in Probability?

Last time, we discussed how you know whether to add or multiply (or something else) in compound probability problems (like finding the probability that you will flip heads and roll an even number). But as I’ve said before, it’s often easier to remember a formula if you know why it is what it is. I’ll …

## Why Can’t You Divide by Zero?

Last time, I talked about students’ difficulties carrying out divisions that involve a  zero, which  reminded me of another issue that sounds almost the same, but is quite different: division of a number by zero. Students often either forget the rule they were taught, or they don’t believe the rule, or they just wonder about …