I know the answer, but I am having a very hard time figuring out when calculating the mode is useful. I guess mainly you’d use it when you’re pointing out the tallest bar in a histogram, but that’s usually a deceptive way of looking at a distribution.
If I were teaching elementary stats, I’d probably stick with mean and median and not bother with mode.
I know it too, but I have children of the affected age. 🙂
I think it’s in an effort to help children understand statistics later. Confusing, often subconsciously, averages with means or with modes is one of the ways people misunderstand data. Not that I think it will actually achieve such greater understanding later–but hey, it’s one of the easy questions.
That’s one of the problems exactly — so many of them just confuse mode with median and mean. Median and mean are useful. I have no idea what mode is useful for, and I got an A in statistics in college.
I’ve often encountered mode in nursing research, but in a qualitative way, so it still doesn’t involve knowing the mode of a set of numbers. I’m not sure the studies have used the word “mode” at all. It really is useful (or at least interesting) to know which answer people gave the most often.
I think I agree with thirdculturemom (I think this is what you’re saying) that the idea is to teach kids what “mode” is so they know the difference between mode and mean. Once they’ve learned it, the trouble is a vocabulary problem, not a math or statistics problem. I really have seen kids think the most common number must be the “average” of the set, and I’ve certainly seen newswriters and bloggers and such imply that the “mode” opinion is the “average” opinion, taking advantage of that natural inclination.
I asked Nicole this question, and she looked at me funny and said “because it’s on the test”…
Thanks, Wendy–that’s exactly what I meant. We have a general tendency of assuming that what is “most common” is also the average. It’s one of those default ways of thinking–like automatically assuming a causal relationship between two events that follow each other, or assuming that if you haven’t rolled a six on the die for some time, it’s now more likely that you will.