More Fun With Math

9 Sep

 The average student has a strange and often perplexing aversion to all things mathematical…

Perhaps they have dyscalculia? I hope not although it’s really just a fancy word for an impaired ability to learn grade-appropriate mathematics. Akin to dyslexia, only about 5% of our students are diagnosed with it. However, many of our public school students if not most, will still claim an aversion to math and a dislike for complicated formulas and calculations of the math kind. Still we all must admit that numbers are important since they constitute most of the other segment of our life that doesn’t involve words.

And although numbers can be written out as words, they really require a mental imagery or visualization within our brains to understand them. And even that doesn’t help much when the average human tries to process extremely large numbers. 1 million seems like a pretty large number to most people and numbers beyond that seem to fall into the category of “a lot”. How many people can really visualize how much 1 billion is? Here’s an illustration: If you had 1 million dollars you could spend 1 thousand dollars every day for 3 years. If you had 1 billion dollars you could spend 1 thousand dollars every day for 3 thousand years! Or you could spend 1 million dollars every year for 1 thousand years, but since you are not going to live for a thousand years how about just spending 10 million dollars a year for 100 years? Does that sound more manageable? That’s still spending 30 thousand dollars a day, without taking a day off for 100 years. That’s doable don’t ya think? That’s what having 1 billion dollars would mean.

New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg has 14 billion dollars. He could spend 400 thousand dollars every day for 100 years without going broke (and that’s if he doesn’t earn any more money in the next 100 years…of course he’ll be in his 160’s by then too) During December of 2010 we had a snowstorm that crippled New York City for a few days. Experts say that it costs about 1 million dollars an inch to clean the snow off of New York City streets during a snow storm. The average snowfall per year, over the past 100 years, in New York City is 28 inches per year. That means that Mayor Bloomberg could pay to plow the streets of New York City out of his own pocket for the next 100 years;

28 x 1,000,000 x 100 = 2,800,000,000 (2 billion 8 hundred million)

(Saving the city’s budget a bundle of money) and still have 11 billion 200 million dollars left over! (And that’s if he doesn’t earn any more money in the next 100 years…of course he’ll be in his 160’s by then too) That’s how big a number 14 billion is!

But just imagine if Mayor Bloomberg were to offer to do something like that. Wouldn’t the people love him? I’d vote to make him mayor forever if he demonstrated such largess, and I don’t even live in New York City (but I’d move there) but even though he probably won’t offer to do such a thing Congress has just voted to extend his tax cuts anyway so he’ll be worth more by this time next year.

See, isn’t it fun to try to contemplate how big numbers are? Aren’t numbers fun? Or is it that they make us sad, especially when we use them to illustrate how poor we are. No matter how often we add everything up they always seems to come out on the short side of what we want our total of “whatever it is” to be. Maybe using numbers and math just adds (no pun intended) to whatever it is that makes us all feel miserable about life and so we feel a natural aversion to it?

Stay tuned for more math fun…

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