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Numbers Galore and Their Meaning

Think of the numbers that surround you...and that you use daily, often without even thinking about their meaning. Some examples:

  • F-stop of 5.6
  • Body Mass Index of 20.8
  • Odds of 5 to 2
  • 65 decibels
  • No 2 writing pencil
  • A2 paper size
  • Consumer Price Index of 177.1
Do you know what all of these numbers mean? Could you explain them to Lilian Leiber's T.C. MITS (i.e. The celebrated man-in-the-streets)?

In case you need to refresh your memory, you could turn to the internet....or you could consult one of these handy books:

  • Mary Blocksma's book Necessary Numbers: An everyday Guide to Sizes, Measures, and More is a fun book to explore because in addition to a multitude of number-interpretations, it includes some interesting histories, number trivia, useful formulas, and relevant web site links (which you can find on-line on the author's website)
  • Nigel Hopkins et al's book The Numbers You Need is basically a "dictionary of everyday numbers and calculations," providing information underlying the numbers representing things such as mortgage points, sun protection factors, the Richter scale, bowling scores, hat sizes, ISBN numbers, and U.S. highway numbers.
  • Patrick McSharry's book Everyday Numbers is like the previous two texts...but also includes some "memory-jogging math principles for parents" and a wealth of data related to banking, music, transportation, science, and every type of measurement possible!
I find such books interesting to browse, and often they lead me on unexpected side-trips that lead to new knowledge (yes, I admit it is usually in the form of trivia).