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A probability distribution tells us the probability that a random variable takes on certain values.

For example, the following probability distribution tells us the probability that a certain soccer team scores a certain number of goals in a given game:

To find the **standard deviation **of a probability distribution, we can use the following formula:

**Ïƒ = âˆšÎ£(x _{i}-Î¼)^{2} * P(x_{i})**

where:

**x**The i_{i}:^{th}value**Î¼:**The mean of the distribution**P(x**The probability of the i_{i}):^{th}value

For example, consider our probability distribution for the soccer team:

The mean number of goals for the soccer team would be calculated as:

Î¼ = 0*0.18Â +Â 1*0.34Â +Â 2*0.35Â +Â 3*0.11Â +Â 4*0.02Â =Â Â **1.45** goals.

We could then calculate the standard deviation as:

The standard deviation is the square root of the sum of the values in the third column. Thus, we would calculate it as:

Standard deviation = âˆš(.3785 + .0689 + .1059 + .2643 + .1301) = **0.9734**

The variance is simply the standard deviation squared, so:

Variance = .9734^{2} = **0.9475**

The following examples show how to calculate the standard deviation of a probability distribution in a few other scenarios.

**Example 1: Standard Deviation of Vehicle Failures**

The following probability distribution tells us the probability that a given vehicle experiences a certain number of battery failures during a 10-year span:

**Question: **What is the standard deviation of the number of failures for this vehicle?

**Solution:** The mean number of expected failures is calculated as:

Î¼ = 0*0.24Â +Â 1*0.57Â +Â 2*0.16Â +Â 3*0.03 =Â **0.98 **failures.

We could then calculate the standard deviation as:

The standard deviation is the square root of the sum of the values in the third column. Thus, we would calculate it as:

Standard deviation = âˆš(.2305 + .0002 + .1665 + .1224) = **0.7208**

**Example 2: Standard Deviation of Sales**

The following probability distribution tells us the probability that a given salesman will make a certain number of sales in the upcoming month:

**Question: **What is the standard deviation of the number of sales for this salesman in the upcoming month?

**Solution:** The mean number of expected sales is calculated as:

Î¼ = 10*.24Â +Â 20*.31Â +Â 30*0.39Â +Â 40*0.06Â =Â **22.7 **sales.

We could then calculate the standard deviation as:

The standard deviation is the square root of the sum of the values in the third column. Thus, we would calculate it as:

Standard deviation = âˆš(38.7096 + 2.2599 + 20.7831 + 17.9574) = **8.928**

**Additional Resources**

How to Find the Mean of a Probability Distribution

Probability Distribution Calculator