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Number of Days between Two Dates

Date: 09/06/2004 at 08:54:15
From: S. Ramachandran
Subject: given two dates-finding no.of days between

Given two dates, how can I mathematically find out the number of days
between them?

In Microsoft Excel there is a function called datedif(old date,new 
date,"d") and it finds the number of days.  I want to know the math
behind that function.

Date: 09/07/2004 at 11:00:53
From: Doctor Vogler
Subject: Re: given two dates-finding no.of days ,months,years

Hi S,

Thanks for writing to Dr. Math.  That's a very good question.  I asked
myself that same question some time ago, and I came up with the
following formula.  It's not the only formula, so I can't say that
Excel does exactly the same thing, but it *does* work.  Here is the idea:

I am going to give you a function that takes in three numbers, a date
(1 to 31), month (1 to 12), and year (such as 2004), and it will give
back an integer.  The integer is the exact number of days from a
certain fixed date.  (In my case, it will be just slightly BC, but you
can change it to another date by adding a fixed constant.)  Then all
you have to do is compute this function for both of your dates and

There are several ways of coming up with such a function, depending,
for example, on how you record the month, day, and year, and what
calendar you are using.  I will be using the Gregorian Calendar, which
is the one in common use in the west (such as America, where I live,
and where MS Excel was created).  You can find more formulas and
information from our FAQ:

  Calendar; Days of the Week 

or by searching our archives for something like

  calendar date days

Now, on to the formula:

First of all, since February is an especially short month, it is 
normally better to consider Jan and Feb the 13th and 14th months of 
the previous year.  So first, if the month is 1 or 2, then you add 12 
to the month and subtract 1 from the year.  Then the day is

  365*year + year/4 - year/100 + year/400 + date + (153*month+8)/5

where all of the divisions are rounded DOWN to the nearest integer.

Do this for both dates, and subtract.

You can use this formula for another problem too:  If you divide by 7,
then the remainder corresponds to the day of the week.  The days of
the week are:

   0 = Sun
   1 = Mon
   2 = Tues
   3 = Wed
   4 = Thu
   5 = Fri
   6 = Sat

The reason my formula works is this:

There are 365 days in most years, so we add 365*year.  But every 
fourth year is a leap year (add year/4) except the century years
(subtract year/100) not divisible by 400 (add year/400).  Then you add
in the date of the month, because that's one day in each month.  Those
are the easy parts.  The hard part is the month, because you need a
formula that takes the month (1 to 12, or rather 3 to 14 in our case)
to the number of days that have already passed in the year up to that
point.  It just so happens that the 30-day and 31-day months are
spaced apart in such a way that if you move Jan and Feb to the end of
the previous year, then

  (153*month + 8)/5

and rounding down gives you exactly this number.  If you don't want to
move Jan and Feb, then you can change the formula to

  365*year + year/4 - year/100 + year/400 + date + table[month]

where you look up a number in a table for each month.  This works too,
and it means you don't have to subtract one from the year if the month
is Jan or Feb, but it means you have to keep a table handy.

Here's a similar problem.  What if you want to convert a day number into
a date?  Suppose you have a day number (which I will call day) from the 
above formula.  Start with

  y = (400*day - 37009)/146097

(and remember to round down).  This will *almost* always give you
right year.  If your date is at the very end of the previous year
(like 29 Feb, usually; remember how we moved Jan and Feb?), then this
might be off by 1, since leap years make this a little fuzzy.  If

  (400*day - 37489)/146097

gives you the same number, then it is correct.  If not, then plug the
higher year (day 1 of month 3 of year y) into the above formula and
see if that is bigger than "day".  If so, subtract one from the year.

Now adjust the day number according to the year number,

  day = day - (365*y + y/4 - y/100 + y/400),

(and remember to round down each division).  Then the month number is

  m = (5*day - 9)/153,

which (remarkably) will always give you exactly the right month (since
the funny month, February, was moved to the end of the previous year).
Now adjust the day number again,

  day = day - (153*m + 8)/5

and what is left is the day of the month,

  d = day.

Now we have to reverse the Jan/Feb thing, so if m > 12, then subtract
12 from the month and add 1 to the year.

There are a lot steps to this, but it is all very straightforward, and
it lends itself very easily to a computer program.  And it's always
worked for me!

If you have any questions about this or need more help, please write
back and show me what you have been able to do, and I will try to
offer further suggestions.

- Doctor Vogler, The Math Forum 
Associated Topics:
Middle School Calendars/Dates/Time

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