Mean and standard deviation by stealth

Formula for sample standard deviation using the square root of the sum of the squares of the deviations from the mean divided by one less than the sample size

Download a set of instructions written in English about how to calculate the mean and standard deviation of a data set.

This has been set to a group of students as homework (old fashioned term, but that is what it was) and I will evaluate the success of the mission in 10 days or so it being half term next week. The numerical answers are mean 101.9 and standard deviation 6.5.

I decided to turn the calculation into an exercise in following instructions as the particular student group was familiar with lab protocols. I then follow up with some explanation. There is a spreadsheet formula reference card in production, and I will be evangelising on the merits of symbolic notation soon enough. I do NOT teach the alternative algorithm as it is numerically unstable with data sets that have low variation.

OpenOffice note: The maths code used to produce the standard deviation formula was

SD = sqrt{{sum{(x-bar{x})^2}}over{N-1}}

I much prefer the OpenOffice formula editor to the more mouse directed one provided with a well known commercial package…

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