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Is Your Favorite Number Popular?

About four years ago, MathNEXUS reviewed NameVoyager, a website that on first view, you could conclude that it had absolutely nothing to do with teaching mathematics, let alone mathematics itself. YET...I expected that many of you would play with it...and perhaps even show it to others...which, based on reader reports, you did!

So, it is time to offer a somewhat similar website, concieved by Golan Levin and commissioned by New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. Based on Internet searches since 1997, The Secret Life of Numbers documents the relative popularity (i.e. search frequency) of every integer between 0 and 1,000,000. The claim: "The resulting information exhibits an extraordinary variety of patterns which reflect and refract our culture, our minds, and our bodies."

Explore their visual model, with these thoughts:

  • Find your favorite number and see its popularity
  • By changing data sets, you can see shifts in popularity
  • By turning the Help function on, you can figure out the two different graph forms (vertical histogram vs number square)
  • Be aware that you have access to only the numbers 1 - 100,000, as a stand alone program is needed to access the full data sets
I found this website fun to play with, noticing some odd occurances. For example, why is the number 902 so much more popular than the number 911? Also, my favorite number 11 was not as popular as I expected it to be. Or, the infamous number 42?

Be sure to read both the "Statement" and the FAQ section, as they include interesting observations. Especially fascinating were the comments about data intervals, changing poularizations of certain numbers, and the "regular" predominance of multiples of 10, 100, 1000, etc.

You can form your own questions to explore, as well as its possible uses in a math classroom.