The mathematical concept of “mode” is typically taught alongside mean and median. While mean is the average of a set of numbers and median is the middle number, mode is the number appearing the most times in a series. To keep them straight, pretend you have a cold , when your nose is all stuffed up, mode comes out sounding like most.

EXAMPLE: 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 2, 6, 5, 8

First, put the numbers in order from smallest to largest: 2, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8. It helps to mark each one off as you are lining them up so as not to repeat one.

When you look at those numbers, does any one number repeat itself more than the others? In fact, in this case, 5 is repeated the most, appearing 3 times. It’s best for any student finding the mode to put the series in numerical order to make sure none of the numbers are missed.

How is “mode” used in real life?

All math students want to know, how will I use this in real life? As if to justify if they don’t think they’ll use it, they shouldn’t have to learn it. Sorry kids, this is, indeed, a function you’re bound to use one day in the future.

While most real estate prices are averaged out to give a mean of the area, it’s often significant to look at the mode for a zip code or area. If just one or two houses have bad yards, go into bankruptcy or are sold prematurely, it can radically reduce an area’s mean. However, if you look at all the numbers, coming up with the price that sold the most, (or near it) you gain a clearer picture of a neighborhood’s worth.

This same could be applied to figuring out the pay of most people at a theme park. While most of the workers are probably high school kids earning $9/hour, the management staff (much less in numbers) should hopefully earn much more. With this in mind, if you lined up all the salaries and found the mode, it would be much more revealing than a mean, which would be skewed.

Another example is to look at a line of restaurants down a busy road. Most, you may find, are fast food restaurants where the average lunch costs about $8. However, in the same area, you have a nice steak house and a Japanese restaurant. These two restaurants drive the average or mean up significantly. However, if you looked at the mode of the restaurant prices, you’d find it to be a much more affordable location to eat.

To be quite frank, mode is probably used the least frequently of the mean, median and mode functions; however, it’s very simple to learn and most students have no difficulty with the concept. And then, there’s that one time when it will come in handy, so don’t write it off as something you don’t need to learn.