## Posts tagged ‘least’

### What Number Do You Hate?

In 2014, Alex Bellos conducted a poll to find out people’s favorite number. Based on those results, Maddy Fry wrote an article for *Time* in which she stated,

The least favorite number turned out to be 110, which was the lowest number to receive no votes.

That’s not quite true. It would be correct to say that 110 was the *least common* favorite number, but calling it the “least favorite number” makes it sound like it’s the number that folks like least. In a poll where folks were asked to choose just one favorite number, a number that gets no votes doesn’t make it the least liked number. It just means that no one picked it as their favorite. That’s a subtle but important distinction.

It could be the case — however unlikely — that even though no one picked 110 as their favorite number, it could be everyone’s *second-favorite* number.

On the other hand, I **do** have a least favorite number.

More than two decades ago, I heard a local Maryland band called Dead City Radio (not to be confused with the song *Dead City Radio* by Rob Zombie), and I bought their debut album. Although the band is now defunct, the image from that album cover holds a permanent spot in my psyche:

The cover includes disturbing imagery of a doll, a gun, graffiti, an atomic bomb explosion, and the number 219 on the door. Why 219? I spoke with DCR’s lead singer after the show, and he told me that it was serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer‘s apartment number. *Disturbing.*

As it turns out, that’s not true. Dahmer’s apartment number in Milwaukee was actually 213, though he did meet several of his victims at Club 219. I’m not sure if the DCR guys had it wrong, or if I misheard because my ears were still ringing after the concert, or if there’s some other explanation.

Regardless, I had no reason to question the statement when I first heard it, and I now have a fear and abnormal hatred of the number 219. It’s been my least favorite number for years. I obviously avoid room 219 when I stay at hotels. (And now that I know the truth, I avoid room 213, too. In fact, I try to avoid the second floor entirely. I don’t even want to walk past those rooms.)

But my hatred is deeper than just avoiding hotel rooms. When I score 219 points playing Dots, or when I receive $2.19 in change at the grocery store, or when my GPS tells me to turn right onto Route 219, a slight shiver runs down my spine.

I’m not the only person who despises a particular number. At The Top Tens, many people say they hate many numbers for a variety of reasons:

- 6 looks weird.
- 16 is so obnoxious. I can’t stand this stupid swagger of an integer. It should burn in hell.
- 12 will lead to endless controversies.
- 18 sucks because it’s when you have to say goodbye to your childhood.
- 39 is a multiple of 13… plus it’s so annoying.

**So, what number do you hate?** Complete the poll below. (And if it isn’t working for you, jump over to **this Google poll**.) Once I get a reasonable number of responses, I’ll clean the data and share the results. Check back in early 2019.

### Results for My Favorite Game

Thanks to everyone who participated in the online version of my favorite game. Thanks, especially, to those people who helped to share it via Twitter, Facebook, and other blogs.

Though I am posting the results today, **I will continue to leave the form online**. Though I had only planned to let the contest last one week, entries continue to roll in, and I see no reason to forbid people from playing. From time to time, I’ll update this page… such updates will occur at the intersection of two events: when enough entries warrant an update, and when the muse hits me.

Without further adieu, here are the results.

With 1,042 entries divided into groups of 100, there were 10 complete games played. The charts below show the results for each game. (Sorry if they’re a little hard to read. Click on the images to view them full-size in a separate window. There are two images below — games 1-5 are shown in the top image, and games 6-10 are shown in the bottom image.)

The graphs above do not reflect all 100 entries for each game. In each game, many numbers greater than 35 were chosen. However, 84.1% of all selected entries were 35 or less.

The winning numbers, respectively, were **3, 3, 20, 4, 7, 2, 16, 4, 4, 2**.

If you’re interested in the raw data, download this Excel spreadsheet.

Congratulations to **Loïc Grobol** of Chécy, France! Loïc was the winner of the 4th game, and his name was randomly selected as the overall winner of the signed copy of *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks* and the specially-designed, one-of-a-kind random number generator. (There is beautiful symmetry that Loïc chose the number 4, that he was the winner of the 4th game, and that the prize has a 4 in the title.)

As shown in the graphs above:

- On average, the number 1 was chosen by 10.4% of entrants. (Edward Early of St. Edward’s College said, “I use that [game] as a bonus question on a test in every class I teach. I believe 1 has never been the winning number, even in a class with only 6 students.” I have played this game over 100 times with various size groups. In my experience, the number 1 has only won twice… by the same woman, who — in a show of incredible bravado — chose the number in consecutive rounds of the game.)
- The number 2 won twice, but it was chosen rather infrequently — less than 1/3 as often as 1. My suspicion is that people figure if you’re gonna go big, go REALLY big… why choose 2 when you can choose 1?
- Besides 1, the number most often chosen was 17, which was selected 5.5% of the time. This seems to corroborate numerous studies that found 17 to be the most commonly selected random number.
- The number 151 was the greatest number chosen more than once.

The chart below shows the frequency of the top nine guesses.

Among the most interesting entries were 666, 1012, 1337, 53,479, and 3,010,994.

The most amusing entry was 10, with the accompanying note, “I’ll choose the base later.”

And you may be wondering… if all 1,000 entries were considered as just one game, what number would have won? That distinction would have gone to 32.

By running this contest, I learned about two interesting uses of this game in classrooms.

Edward Early said that he uses the following version as a bonus question.

Write a positive integer in the blank: _______

How this will be graded: The least positive integer that is submitted by exactly one person will be worth 5 points. The next-smallest will be worth 4 points, and the next-smallest after that will be worth 3 points. All other positive integers submitted by exactly one person will be worth 2 points. Positive integers submitted by more than one person will be worth 1 point. Anything other than a positive integer will receive no credit. Do not ask me to explain this question.

Not surprisingly, with these modifications comes a change in strategy — Edward said that some students choose a large random number, just to ensure they receive 2 points.

Matt Skoss of Possum Educational Services and the Northern Territory Dept of Education and Training said that he’s used this game for years with his kids at school.

Pick the lowest prime number, composite number, surd, cube number or triangular number, etc., depending upon what I’d like the kids to think about.

What an excellent use of a simple game!