How to Use the Google Spreadsheets AVERAGE Function

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Find the Arithmetic Mean (Average) with Google Spreadsheets' AVERAGE Function

Finding Average Values with Google Spreadsheets' AVERAGE Function
© Ted French

Measures of Central Tendency in Google Spreadsheets

There are a number of ways of measuring central tendency or, as it is more commonly called, the average, for a set of values.

The most commonly calculated measure of central tendency is the arithmetic mean - or simple average - and it is calculated by adding a group of numbers together and then dividing by the count of those numbers. For example, the average of 4, 20, and 6 added together is 10 as shown in row

Google Spreadsheets has a number of functions that make it easy to find some of the more commonly used average values. These include:

  • The AVERAGE function - finds the arithmetic mean for a list of numbers
  • The MEDIAN function - finds the middle value in a list of numbers
  • The MODE function - finds the most commonly occurring value in a list of numbers

The AVERAGE Function's Syntax and Arguments

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, comma separators, and arguments.

The syntax for the AVERAGE function is:

=AVERAGE(number_1, number_2, ...number_30)

number_1 - (required) the data to be averaged by the function

number_2 - number_30 - (optional) additional data values to be included in the average. The maximum number of entries allowed is 30

The number arguments can contain:

Note:

Text entries and cells containing Boolean values (TRUE or FALSE) are ignored by the function as shown in rows 8 and 9 above.

If cells that are blank or contain text or Boolean values are later altered to hold numbers, the average will recalculate to accommodate the changes.

Blank Cells vs. Zero

When it comes to finding average values in Google Spreadsheets, there is a difference between blank or empty cells and those containing a zero value.

Blank cells are ignored by the AVERAGE function, which can be very handy since it makes finding the average for non-contiguous cells of data very easy as shown in row 6 above.

Cells containing a zero value, however, are included in the average as shown in row 7.

Finding the AVERAGE Function

As with all other built-in functions in Google Spreadsheets, the AVERAGE function can be accessed by clicking on Insert > Function in the menus to open a drop down list of commonly used functions that includes the AVERAGE function.

Alternatively, because it is so commonly used, a shortcut to the function has been added to the program's toolbar, to make it even easier to find and use.

The icon on the toolbar for this and several other popular functions is the Greek letter Sigma (Σ) as shown in the image above.

Google Spreadsheets AVERAGE Function Example

The steps below cover how to enter the AVERAGE function shown in row four in the example in the image above using the shortcut to the AVERAGE function mentioned above.

Entering the AVERAGE Function

  1. Click on cell D4 - the location where the formula results will be displayed;
  2. Click on the Functions icon on toolbar above the worksheet to open the drop down list of functions;
  3. Select Average from the list to place a blank copy of the function in cell D4;
  4. Highlight cells A4 to C4 to enter these references as arguments for the function and press the Enter key on the keyboard;
  5. The number 10 should appear in cell D4. This is the average of the three numbers - 4, 20, and 6;
  6. When you click on cell A8 the complete function =AVERAGE(A4:C4) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.

Notes:

  • Individual cells, rather than a continuous range can be added as arguments but each cell reference must be separated by a comma. 
  • After entering the function, if changes are made to the data in the selected cells, the function, by default, automatically recalculates to reflect the change.