Probability and Statistics > Basic Statistics > Continuous Variable / Continuous Data

## What is a Continuous Variable?

A variable is a quantity that has a changing value; the value can vary from one example to the next. A continuous variable is a variable that has an **infinite number of possible values**. In other words, any value is possible for the variable.

A continuous variable is the opposite of a discrete variable, which can only take on a certain number of values.

A continuous variable doesn’t have to have *every* possible number (like -infinity to +infinity), it can also be continuous between two numbers, like 1 and 2. For example, discrete variables could be 1,2 while the continuous variables could be 1,2 and everything in between: 1.00, 1.01, 1.001, 1.0001…

## What is a Continuous Variable? Examples of Continuous Data

A few examples of continuous variables / data:

**Time it takes a computer to complete a task**. You might think you*can*count it, but time is often rounded up to convenient intervals, like seconds or milliseconds. Time is actually a continuum: it could take 1.3 seconds or it could take 1.333333333333333… seconds.**A person’s weight.**Someone could weigh 180 pounds, they could weigh 180.10 pounds or they could weigh 180.1110 pounds. The number of possibilities for weight are limitless.**Income.**You might think that income is countable (because it’s in dollars) but who is to say someone can’t have an income of a billion dollars a year? Two billion? Fifty nine trillion? And so on…**Age.**So, you’re 25 years-old. Are you sure? How about 25 years, 19 days and a millisecond or two? Like time, age can take on an infinite number of possibilities and so it’s a continuous variable.**The price of gas.**Sure, it might be $4 a gallon. But one time in recent history it was 99 cents. And give inflation a few years it will be $99. not to mention the gas stations always like to use fractions (i.e. gas is rarely $4.47 a gallon, you’ll see in the small print it’s actually $4.47 9/10ths

**Next:** Discrete vs continuous variables.

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