(See the next iteration.)

I have this funky class method for computing standard deviation from an array of Number objects using the Stream API:


package net.coderodde.util;

import java.util.Arrays;

public class StandardDeviation {

    public static double computeStandardDeviation(Number... collection) {
        if (collection.length == 0) {
            return Double.NaN;

        final double average =
                      .mapToDouble((x) -> x.doubleValue())

        final double rawSum = 
                      .mapToDouble((x) -> Math.pow(x.doubleValue() - average,

        return Math.sqrt(rawSum / (collection.length - 1));

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Mix 'em all!
        double sd = computeStandardDeviation((byte) 1, 
                                             (short) 2, 


Please, tell me anything that comes to mind.


2 Answers 2


That's a nice and clean, short piece of code. :) It also appears to calculate the result correctly. My observations will follow, but really, only the first one is actually an issue:

  • The application will crash with a NullPointerException if you try to compute the standard deviation for null. In addition to checking collection.length == 0, you should first check for collection == null.
  • You should be consistent with your use of the final modifier. Finalize that Number... collection, String[] args and double sd too.
  • While at it, you could finalize the entire class as well and add an empty private constructor: private StandardDeviation() { /* prevent instantiation */ }. It's an utility class with only static methods, so you don't need anyone calling new StandardDeviation() as it currently stands. Some static code analyzers would actually point this out as a minor issue for you.
  • Personally I find the use of method references nice and clear, so you could replace .mapToDouble((x) -> x.doubleValue()) with .mapToDouble(Number::doubleValue)
  • I find that .mapToDouble((x) -> Math.pow(x.doubleValue() - average, 2.0)) does too much at once, you could also do it like this instead: .mapToDouble(Number::doubleValue).map(x -> x - average).map(StandardDeviation::square) and then you'd have a new method like this in your class: private static Double square(final Double value) { return Math.pow(value, 2.0); }. At least the Math.pow(...) part is much easier to read as a method reference.
  • As an external user of your utility class I'd like the option to call the standard deviation method with a Collection instead of varargs parameters. You'd then have to make one of the methods to call the other, first converting either the array into a collection or the other way around. Personally I prefer working with Collections.
  • You are traversing the collection twice to determine the standard deviation when you could do it in a single pass.
  • Also, you could accumulate quickly rounding errors with the Math.pow(x.doubleValue() - average, 2.0) call. It would be best to implement the Kahan summation algorithm (that the Stream API has for DoubleStream#sum()).
  • In the lambda expression (x) -> x.doubleValue(), you don't need to add the parentheses around (x). You can just have x -> x.doubleValue(). You could also use a method-reference, which avoids a lamda, and have Number::doubleValue.

On Stack Overflow, I wrote an answer which calculates the standard deviation in a single pass with compensation. It is parallel-friendly:

static class DoubleStatistics extends DoubleSummaryStatistics {

    private double sumOfSquare = 0.0d;
    private double sumOfSquareCompensation; // Low order bits of sum
    private double simpleSumOfSquare; // Used to compute right sum for
                                        // non-finite inputs

    public void accept(double value) {
        double squareValue = value * value;
        simpleSumOfSquare += squareValue;

    public DoubleStatistics combine(DoubleStatistics other) {
        simpleSumOfSquare += other.simpleSumOfSquare;
        return this;

    private void sumOfSquareWithCompensation(double value) {
        double tmp = value - sumOfSquareCompensation;
        double velvel = sumOfSquare + tmp; // Little wolf of rounding error
        sumOfSquareCompensation = (velvel - sumOfSquare) - tmp;
        sumOfSquare = velvel;

    public double getSumOfSquare() {
        double tmp = sumOfSquare + sumOfSquareCompensation;
        if (Double.isNaN(tmp) && Double.isInfinite(simpleSumOfSquare)) {
            return simpleSumOfSquare;
        return tmp;

    public final double getStandardDeviation() {
        long count = getCount();
        double sumOfSquare = getSumOfSquare();
        double average = getAverage();
        return count > 0 ? Math.sqrt((sumOfSquare - count * Math.pow(average, 2)) / (count - 1)) : 0.0d;

    public static Collector<Double, ?, DoubleStatistics> collector() {
        return Collector.of(DoubleStatistics::new, DoubleStatistics::accept, DoubleStatistics::combine);


It has the same logic as DoubleSummaryStatistics but extended to calculate the sum of squares.

With such a class, you can then have:

public static double computeStandardDeviation(Number... collection) {
    return Arrays.stream(collection)
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are very knowledgeable about Java's APIs. \$\endgroup\$
    – coderodde
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 8:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ This version calculates the standard deviation as count > 0 ? Math.sqrt((sumOfSquare - count * Math.pow(average, 2)) / (count - 1)) : 0.0d; but the version you link to on StackOverflows has getCount() > 0 ? Math.sqrt((getSumOfSquare() / getCount()) - Math.pow(getAverage(), 2)) : 0.0d; Are they equivalent? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 12:15

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