More reasons why math will save your life

rock-star-money-throwing_layer-1Who among you has secretly “planned” for retirement, either by thinking you’ll marry rich, or by winning the lottery?

We’ll address the first concept separately (click here). Today, we discuss the ACTUAL ODDS of winning the lottery (and why this isn’t such a great retirement idea after all).

um-element-confusionIn many regions worldwide, a popular lottery format involves picking 6 numbers out of 49, which sounds really easy. After all, it’s just 6 out of 49, which means your probability of matching all 6 must be, about… umm… 6 out of 49, right…?

confused“Hey! That’s about 12%, so I only have to play the lottery about 8 times to win!

Well, one of the charms of casino games (and all games of chance) is that they all look deceptively simple.

The actual calculation for winning with those six numbers can be elucidated as:

probability = (6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1)/(49 x 48 x 47 x 46 x 45 x 44), which can also be expressed mathematically as p=1/[(49!)/(43!6!)].

…gleep? *!*man-confused-cartoon-face

If that seems obscure, don’t worry. The whole idea is that the lottery designers don’t really want you to grasp the distance between you and the jackpot.

bash-headThe true odds are actually about one in 14 million!

If that still doesn’t mean anything, then consider the following real-life facts:

Mature Caucasian Man Scratching Head

You are more likely to be killed by lightning (1 in 56,000) or by terrorists while travelling (1 in 650,000). Dying from a snake bite is also more likely (1 in 1.2 million)!

You are three times more likely to perish in a traffic accident while driving to the corner store to buy the said lotto ticket!

ideas-1money_throwingWait! What if you buy enough tickets to cover all possible 6-number combinations? Guaranteed jackpot! Odds = 100%, right! 🙂

That is true… however…

Well, let’s see… at about $2 per ticket… that’ll cost you close to 28 million dollars! …for a jackpot that is typically a lot smaller than 28 mill…

facepalm2And as they say, you have to play to win, because if you don’t, then your odds are exactly zero… which is pretty much the same as if you do play!

So get real, folks. The real world is here to stay. No matter what the TV ads imply, most of us will not be retiring tomorrow.

Paying attention in math class (click here) is how you get rich – if you use the knowledge properly!Money Flying Away

Prof Ling 🙂