Winning the Lottery
Date: 01/30/97 at 06:33:30 From: Zink, Steve Subject: Winning the Lottery I would like to know what branch of mathematics I need to study in order to be able to write a formula that will approximate the outcome of the lottery. I know that it sounds far-fetched, but please hear me out. My lotto is comprised of 6 numbers: A, B, C, D, E, F. In reveiwing the history of all the draws, I can see a type of pattern in the A's column. For instance, approximately every 10 to 13 draws A will equal 10. The other numbers in A sort of do likewise, but there are too many for me to keep correlated in my head. Could you please tell me where I might go to learn how to write a formula that predicts the outcome, if there is such a thing? Thanks, Steve Zink
Date: 01/30/97 at 10:13:44 From: Doctor Mitteldorf Subject: Re: Winning the Lottery Dear Steve, Scientists are always looking for patterns in physical data, and market traders are always looking for patterns in stock prices. Sometimes our eyes make up patterns in data that's really quite random. So mathematicians have come up with rules that can tell objectively whether a pattern is really there, or whether it's just a chance combination of numbers. The rules aren't straightforward and simple, because they depend on the context. If you're serious about this, it will be worth your while to take a course in first year statistics, or read an elementary statistics text; there will be lots of examples of real number patterns and false patterns that look real. This should be an important concern of yours before you actually put money down in the lottery based on your ideas: check that the pattern you are seeing is "statistically significant". That's the term that means it's really in the data, and not likely to be just a series of random occurrences. In the example you give, suppose the first number A can be anything from 00 to 99. Suppose you see the number 10 come up once, and then again 13 days later. This might seem a remarkable thing to you, but it is not "statistically significant" because in any set of 14 numbers, there are 91 different pairs of numbers, so the chances are 91/100 that one of the pairs will be the same. If the number 10 came up in the same slot a third time within 13 more days, that still wouldn't be statistically significant; only after the fourth such occurence would you really start to suspect that it's a pattern you might be able to bank on. Statistics has a lot to tell us in situations like this, and, as in the case I just cited, much of it isn't really in line with our intuitions. I strongly recommend that you learn enough to understand statistical significance before you risk any money on a pattern that you've found in lottery numbers. -Doctor Mitteldorf, The Math Forum Check out our web site!
Search the Dr. Math Library:
Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994-2015 The Math Forum