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Continuous Variables [ Definition & Examples ]

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Variables can either be classified as discrete or continuous. Students of statistics are often taught the definition of these two types of variables in introductory statistics class. In this piece, however, I will be focussing specifically on helping you understand what are continuous variables. We will also be using examples to strengthen our understanding since just going through the definition wouldn’t be sufficient to actually clear the concept for you.

Definition of Continuous Variables 

Note: The three properties of continuous variables listed below might not necessarily make the concept clear, but are required to understand the examples stated below.

A continuous variable has the following three properties:

  1. It has uncountably infinite values, which means you cannot count it in a step-by-step manner.
  2. Continuous variables are usually measured, not counted. Think temperature, speed of a vehicle, the height of a person, the weight of a person, time, etc.
  3. Continuous variables can be split into smaller parts, taking up valid fractional or decimal values.

Examples of Continuous Variables

  1. Age

Age is a continuous variable because it could take uncountably infinite values if we tried to count your age with exact precision. For example, your present age could be 31 years, 5 months, 8 days, 10 hours, 15 seconds, 10 milliseconds, 5 nanoseconds, 78 picoseconds…..and so on.

However, if you were to specifically define your age in terms of years, your age would have a countable and finite value. For example, your age in years would only be 31 years. In this case, age would not be a continuous variable, it would be a discrete variable.

  1. Winning time in a race 

Winning time in a race is a continuous variable because the exact precision of the winning time has uncountably infinite values. For example, the winning time could be something like 50 seconds, 18 milliseconds, 9 nanoseconds, 52 picoseconds…..and so on.

However, if we were to specifically define the winning time using only up to two decimal places, then it would be countable and finite. For example, the winning time would be 50 seconds only. In this case, the winning time would be a continuous variable, not a discrete variable

Continuous Variables Practice Examples With Answers

To make sure you have developed a proper understanding of continuous variables, try to think if the following would be continuous variables or not:

  1. Weight of a person
  2. Weight of a person defined specifically in kilograms
  3. Speed of bicycle.
  4. Number of heads when flipping a coin

Answers:

  1. Continuous variable
  2. Not a continuous variable
  3. Continuous variable
  4. Not a continuous variable

If you want to learn the difference between discrete and continuous variables, check out this article.

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Continuous Variables [ Definition & Examples ]
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A continuous variable has the following three properties: they have uncountably infinite values, which means you cannot count it in a step-by-step manner. they are usually measured, not counted, and can be split into smaller parts, taking up valid fractional or decimal values.
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AllThingsStatistics

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