9) How Much is a Million?
One million written in numbers, is one with 6 zeros:

1,000,000

How much is that? Let's look at this question in a couple of different ways. First let's try to visualize it. Here are 1,000 dollar signs:

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

One million dollar signs would be 1000 times as many as you see above. That would take up a lot of space on this web page, more than you really want to see!

How long would it take to count from one to one million? Let's figure it out. We could count the time it takes to say each number 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . but it's hard to time such small intervals, even with a stop watch, and it takes a different length of time to count each number; some, like "seven" are 2 syllables.

Counting, and making sense of numbers, applies to many different careers: some of the careers that deal with statistics are insurance, accounting, finance, real estate, science, and even sports. When a statistician needs to estimate an amount, they use different techniques. one technique is to measure a large quantity, then divide by the number in the quantity, which gives you a better answer than just measuring one item.

To get a more accurate estimate, a statistician would count a number of different ways: counting to 100, counting more than one time, or counting from 1000 to 1050 for example, to factor in more of the 2- and 3 syllable words. How accurate does the estimate have to be? It depends on the application, and what you are counting. If you are counting grains of rice, maybe 2 or 3 plus or minus doesn't matter. But if you are counting millions of dollars, one or two of these millions matters quite a bit! In our measurement of the time it takes to count to a million, we will be satisfied with a rough estimate. So let's count to 30, and see how long that takes. Try this yourself, using a watch or clock with a second hand. Count at a normal, steady rate, and don't forget to breathe!

Now let's see. I just counted steadily from 1 to 30, and it took about 28 seconds. I could have counted a whole lot faster, but I decided that if I had to keep this up for as long as it would take to get to 1 million, I'd better take a few breaths, and not try to go too fast. So, figuring in some breathing space, and maybe a cough or two, let's say we could average 30 seconds to say 30 numbers (hmm.....when we get up to the really big numbers, they might take longer to say . . . like seven thousand seven hundred and seventy seven!) I think this is not going to be a very close estimate. The really big numbers are going to take more than twice as long to say as the single syllable numbers. We had better use an estimate of 2 seconds for each number, on the average.

Oh well, here goes . . . So that means we'll say 1 million numbers: 2 million seconds., and 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day (Oops! I guess we don't have time to sleep!) 60 times 60 times 24 = 86,400 numbers per day. Now, to find the time, in days, to say 1 million numbers we'd have to do some more arithmetic. First, there are 60 seconds in a minute, so we divide 2,000,000 seconds by 60; then, since there are 60 minutes in an hour, we divide the number of minutes by 60; then since there are 24 hours in a day we divide by 24 and get approximately 23 days.

That means we'd have to count day and night, without breakfast lunch or dinner, without sleep or television or a phone call or a bathroom break (yikes!) for 23 days!


Go to Topic 10: How much is a Billion?