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What is an Aggregate Function?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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In computer engineering, an aggregate function is a mathematical algorithm that returns a summarized set of data. These functions perform simple mathematical calculations including counting, ordering, and calculating averages from a list of values. Data aggregation is commonly used in statistical reporting.

In business, an aggregate function can help executives determine the health and profits of a company. Most automated reporting programs include several aggregate functions that are used in standard accounting reports. These functions include sum, maximum, minimum and average algorithms.

Many software programs provide special methods to handle aggregate functions. These help developers with data conversion and mathematical calculations. Each programming language has specific rules for how aggregate functions are used within the software.

Adding a list of numbers is a simple math function and a good example of an aggregate function. This special function works adds numerical values in a list of data. The sum function in Microsoft® Excel® is commonly used algorithm that performs addition.

Calculating the average value of a set of numbers is another example of an aggregate function. The average function will typically return the mean or median value of a list of numbers. This special function is typically used in business to help determine trends and anomalies.

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Determining the minimum value from a list typically requires a complex mathematical algorithm. Most programming languages include an aggregate function that will return the minimum value from a set of data. This helps programs run more efficiently because the function is tuned for performance.

A count function is a simple command that counts the number of rows in a set. This function is often used in spread sheet software to define of the number of values returned in the list. Counting functions help determine the total number of values presented in a set of data.

Many software programs use sorting algorithms that allow data to be sorted in either ascending or descending order. These algorithms use an aggregate function to determine the maximum and minimum value of a set of data. This aggregation allows the data to be sorted.

Database software is designed to manipulate and store the information of a company. This software uses aggregate functions through a tool called structured query language (SQL). SQL is a commonly used tool that provides real-time analytics to companies.

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