# 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 **σ** (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 | = | \frac{600 + 470 + 170 + 430 + 300}{5} |

= | \frac{1970}{5} | |

= | 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:

Variance |
||

σ^{2} |
= | \frac{206^{2} + 76^{2} + (−224)^{2} + 36^{2} + (−94)^{2}}{5} |

= | \frac{42436 + 5776 + 50176 + 1296 + 8836}{5} | |

= | \frac{108520}{5} | |

= | 21704 |

So the Variance is **21,704**

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

Standard Deviation |
||

σ | = | √21704 |

= | 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, right?

## Using

We can expect about 68% of values to be within plus-or-minus 1 standard deviation.

Read Standard Normal Distribution to learn more.

Also 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:

**4**=

**27,130**

**165**(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 " |
||

The "Sample Standard Deviation": |

Looks complicated, but the important change is to

divide by **N-1** (instead of **N**) when calculating a Sample Standard Deviation.

***Footnote: Why ***square* the differences?

*square*the differences?

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

\frac{4 + 4 − 4 − 4}{4} = 0 |

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

\frac{|4| + |4| + |−4| + |−4|}{4} = \frac{4 + 4 + 4 + 4}{4} = 4 |

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

\frac{|7| + |1| + |−6| + |−2|}{4} = \frac{7 + 1 + 6 + 2}{4} = 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):

√(\frac{4^{2} + 4^{2} + (-4)^{2} + (-4)^{2}}{4}) = √(\frac{64}{4}) = 4 | ||

√(\frac{7^{2} + 1^{2} + (-6)^{2} + (-2)^{2}}{4}) = √(\frac{90}{4}) = 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.