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# What is a random variable?

Module by: Arnold Mwesigye. E-mail the author

A random variable is a term used in mathematics and statistics to represent the numeric result of operating a non-deterministic mechanism or performing a non-deterministic experiment to generate a random result. A random variable cannot be assigned a value. It does not describe the actual outcome of a particular experiment, but rather describes the possible, as-yet-undetermined outcomes in terms of real numbers.

Example:

A random variable can be used to describe the process of rolling a fair die and the possible outcomes { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 }. Another random variable might describe the possible outcomes of picking a random person and measuring his or her height.

References:

Wikipedia. "Statistical Independence", Wikipedia Foundation Inc, "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_Variable", Last accessed 17th February 2006.

Arnold Mwesigye

Petrina Mangala

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