## Count to a million

By David Shaw, 16 September 2016

Start by timing yourself counting to 100.

How long would it take to count to one million? Well you could just start a stopwatch and get to counting, but here’s how to work out if you’ll be done by dinner time.

### You will need

### First estimate

Remember to write down your time!

- Start by warming up your voice. Sing a few scales and practice your deep breathing.
- When you’re ready, grab your stopwatch, and time yourself counting from one to 100. Make a note of how many seconds it takes.
- Rest for a bit, try again, and then a third time. Record your time in seconds for each attempt. With three trials, you can calculate an average, or just take the middle value.
- Now for some calculations! It will take 10 times longer to count to 1000. Then there are 1000 thousands in a million. So take your counting time, and multiply by 10 000 to get an estimate for a count to a million.
Calculate how many days it will take!

- Your answer is in seconds, which isn’t very useful. Divide by 60 to get minutes, and then divide by 60 again to get hours. You probably can’t count for more than eight hours a day without losing your voice, so divide by eight to get days.

### Second estimate

- Counting from 1 to 100 is the easiest bit of the count. You might slow down a bit when you get to larger numbers such as 654 035.
- Warm up as before, and then time yourself counting from 137 801 to 137 900 as fast as you can. Remember to record your time in seconds.
- Now try 417 900 to 418 000. Finally, have a go from 945 800 to 945 900. Make a note of how many seconds it takes each time.
- Add these three estimates together, then divide by three to get an average.
- Multiply your answer by 10 000 to get an estimate for a count to a million.
- Redo the calculations from Step 5 above to see how long it would take to count to one million. Do you think this is a better estimate?

### What’s happening?

Words like million and billion are quite common on the news, especially when talking about politics or the economy. We know that they are big, but it’s really hard to imagine just how big these numbers are.

Counting to one million takes months. We know this because someone actually did it! Jeremy Harper counted from one to a million live over the internet, to raise money for charity. It took him 89 days.

One million may be big, but a billion is a lot bigger. It would take about 250 years, or three lifetimes, to count to one billion. Don’t be fooled! Millions and billions sound very similar but have very different sizes. So be careful when you read these numbers, or see them on the news.

*If you’re after more maths activities for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!*

16 March, 2019 at 12:00 am

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