Statistics Definitions > Range

## What is a Range?

The difference between the biggest and smallest values in the set.

## How to Find a Range

Watch the video, or read the article below:

The **range** in statistics is a measure of spread: it’s the difference between the highest value and the lowest value in a data set. The same two steps are used whether you are dealing with positive or negative numbers or time (i.e. seconds or minutes).

**Sample question 1**: What is the range for the following set of numbers? 10, 99, 87, 45, 67, 43, 45, 33, 21, 7, 65, 98?

Step 1: **Sort the numbers in order**, from smallest to largest:

7, 10, 21, 33, 43, 45, 45, 65, 67, 87, 98, 99

Step 2: **Subtract the smallest number in the set from the largest number in the set**:

99 – 7 = 92

The range is 92

*That’s it!*

**Sample question 2:** What is the range of these integers?

14, -12, 7, 0, -5, -8, 17, -11, 19

Step 1: **Sort the numbers in order, from smallest to largest**:

-12, -11, -8, -5, 0, 7, 14, 17, 19

Step 2: **Subtract the smallest number in the set from the largest number in the set**:

19 – -12 = 19 + 12 = 31

The range is 31.

*That’s it!*

**Sample question 3:** What is the range of the following times?

2.7 hrs, 8.3 hrs, 3.5 hrs, 5.1 hrs, 4.9 hrs

Step 1: **Sort the numbers in order, from smallest to largest**:

2.7, 3.5, 4.9, 5.1, 8.3

Step 2: **Subtract the smallest number in the set from the largest number in the set**:

8.3 hr – 2.7 hr = 5.6 hr

The range is 5.6 hr.

*That’s how to find a range!*

**Fun fact:** The origin of the word “Range” in mathematics is unknown, but a few early uses of the word as it’s used in statistics can be found as far back as 1848, in H. Lloyd, “On Certain Questions Connected with the Reduction of Magnetical and Meteorological Observations,” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 4, 180-183 (David, 1995). The word was later used in a book on Calculus in 1865: The Differential Calculus by John Spare mentions: “…in respect to the range of values which the function and its variable may sustain, and to their mutual dependence” [University of Michigan Digital Library]. Although technically not statistics, the range in calculus has practically the same meaning (the spread from the smallest value to the largest).

### Another Example.

**Problem**: You take 7 statistics tests over the course of a semester. You score 94, 88, 73, 84, 91, 87, and 79. What is the range of your scores?

**Solution:**

Step 1: Order your scores from smallest to largest:

73, 79, 84, 87, 88, 91, 94.

Step 2: Subtract the smallest number from the highest = 94 – 73 = 21.

**Answer: 21.**

## When it Might be Misleading

The range only uses the smallest and the largest number in a set. The rest of the values are ignored. That could lead to a misleading result. Take the above test scores. Let’s say you had the flu one test day and scored a 10 instead of an 84. Then:

94 – 10 = 84!

That’s not a good reflection of your overall test performance at all.

The score of 10 in the example above is what we call an outlier. It’s an extremely high or low value that can throw off stats. That’s why other measures of spread are sometimes preferred, like the mean.

## Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb says that the range is about four times the standard deviation. The standard deviation is another measure of spread in statistics. It tells you how your data is clustered around the mean. What the rule of thumb tells you in most cases is that the bulk of the data can be found pretty close to the mean (within a couple of standard deviations). That means those erroneous “outliers” should have very little effect on your final statistic.

Procedure for finding a standard deviation using the rule of thumb:

Step 1: Find the range.

Step 2: Divide Step 1 by four.

The rule of thumb doesn’t work that well for small data sets. And it doesn’t work at all if you don’t have data that fits a normal distribution. That’s why you’ll rarely see it used in statistics.

**Tip:** In other subjects (like calculus), it can also mean all of the output values of a function.

## Range Excel in 2013

Watch the video or read the steps below:

To find a range in Excel 2013, you have two options: you can use the MAX and MIN functions to find the largest and smallest numbers in a data set and then you can subtract the two. For example, if you had a data set in cells A1 to A10, you’d need three formulas in three blank cells. The format (assuming you put these formulas into cells B1:B3) would be:

B1 = MAX(A1:A10)

B2 = MIN(A1:A10)

B3 =(B1-B2)

A much easier way is to use Data Analysis. In a couple of clicks (with no entering formulas) you can display a variety of summary statistics, including the range (How to load the Data Analysis Toolpak).

### Range Excel 2013: Data Analysis Steps

Step 1: Click the “Data” tab and then click “Data Analysis.”

Step 2: Click “Descriptive Statistics” and then click “OK.”

Step 3: Click the Input Range box and then type the location for your data. For example, if you typed your data into cells A1 to A10, type “A1:A10” into that box

Step 4: Click the radio button for Rows or Columns, depending on how your data is laid out.

Step 5: Click the “Labels in first row” box if your data has column headers.

Step 6: Click the “Descriptive Statistics” check box.

Step 7: Select a location for your output. For example, click the “New Worksheet” radio button.

Step 8: Click “OK.”

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