Statistics Dictionary

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Continuous Variable

If a variable can take on any value between its minimum value and its maximum value, it is called a continuous variable; otherwise, it is called a discrete variable.

Some examples will clarify the difference between discrete and continuous variables.

• Suppose the fire department mandates that all fire fighters must weigh between 150 and 250 pounds. The weight of a fire fighter would be an example of a continuous variable; since a fire fighter's weight could take on any value between 150 and 250 pounds.

• Suppose we flip a coin and count the number of heads. The number of heads could be any integer value between 0 and plus infinity. However, it could not be any number between 0 and plus infinity. We could not, for example, get 2.5 heads. Therefore, the number of heads must be a discrete variable.
 See also: Tutorial: Discrete and Continuous Random Variables | AP Statistics Tutorial: Variables