# Statistical Variables

A variable is a collection of observations of a characteristic
of an object that can take on two or more values. This chapter
provides an overview of how variables are implemented in
**Numerics.NET**.

Variables occur in two situations, either on their own or as part
of a collection. On their own, you can use them to calculate descriptive
statistics, like the mean and the standard deviation. Or you can use it
to perform statistical tests, such as the one-sample *z* test
or the Kolmogorov-Smirnov goodness-of-fit test.
Most often, however, variables will come in groups and represent
different properties or measurements in a data set.

In **Numerics.NET**,
variables are implemented as
Vector<T>
objects.

Variables can be either continuous, or categorical.

## Continuous Variables

Any variable that can take on a value from a continuous range is called a continuous variable. Any numerical or date type can be used as the element type. Nothing needs to be done to mark a vector as a continuous variable.

## Categorical Variables

Variables whose observations can take on only one of a finite set of values are called categorical variables or discrete variables. They are implemented by the CategoricalVector<T> class.

Fundamental to the implementation of categorical variables is the category index. The category index represents the possible values that a variable can have. Every categorical variable has an associated category index. The index is used to map an object to its category, or to the index of its category in a list of categories.

The category index is an Index<T> object.

## Data Frames

Most statistical data sets are made up of several variables. This functionality is encapsulated in a DataFrame object. Data frames can be created by adding individual variables, and by importing them from files or data bases.