We use numbers every day to describe the world – distances, weights, speeds, debts, populations, and so on. Yet most of us struggle to have an intuitive sense of what these numbers mean. How big is big? How fast is fast?
Today I’ve set a different challenge to my usual mathematical puzzle. The ten questions below are a test of estimation skills, common sense and general knowledge – but also of our feel for numbers.
Often the best way to get a deeper sense of a what a number means is to make meaningful comparisons. Or even quite random comparisons. Let’s start with a big number from Wimbledon, which starts today.
The examples in these questions were chosen by Andrew C. A. Elliott, who runs IsThatABigNumber.com, the most numbers-tastic site on the web. Andrew’s mission is to promote numeracy and rationality by putting ‘big’ numbers into context. His excellent, fact-packed book Is That A Big Number?, which presents strategies for improving our understanding of numbers, is out this month.
What’s your favourite big number? Please leave your suggestions below!
I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. I’m always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.
I also co-write the children’s book series Football School.