The grumbles resonated from the kitchen. The sound wasn’t particularly loud or piercing at least in the beginning. I guess you could describe it as a low, irregular whine of sorts. I walked in and there he was -- my 11-year old son slumped over his math sheet looking as if the world would end if he did not finish the problems before him. Of course, he was absolute in the fact his mom could not help him with this “math Armageddon.” He insisted he would fight this battle alone. I thought to myself, “Does anyone like math? He must know how interesting math can be if he would just get through these monotonous and arduous building blocks?” We all know it doesn’t quite work that way especially when you’re a 5th grader. I’m hopeful one day in the near future, my son will see all the amazing stories behind these fractions, decimals and percentages -- the interesting tales behind the numbers.
In the world today, numbers influence almost every aspect of our lives in a series of choices. People are born with a number. They die with a number. Our day starts with numbers and ends with numbers. It seems as every minute of our day revolves around numbers. From counting change for the parking meter or planning a college fund to finding the appropriate amount of time for exercise to calculating the week’s groceries. We are constantly tracking numbers -- daily sales calls made at work, balances on checking accounts, quickest routes in travel, hours for the babysitter, oven temperature for dinner, weather forecasts, pin numbers, lottery numbers, birthdays, phone numbers, anniversaries and so on. Numbers work because they get our attention. Numbers have the capacity to bring significant change and awareness.
Take a look at the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” last summer’s viral phenomenon. The challenge raised $220 million globally for the ALS Association. That’s a lot of money and a lot of ice to promote awareness of ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This number of $220,000,000 has the potential to change the face of ALS. Numbers have the power to create forward-moving progress in the weakest of areas. In 2010, there were 1.2 billion people worldwide existing in extreme poverty living on less than $1.25 per day. Though this unfathomable number has dramatically decreased in the last three decades, more must be done. Numbers can give us a sense of security. We should all feel safe going to sleep at night knowing there are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces as of 2014. However with this number, we are seeing an alarming statistic of 22 soldiers committing suicide every day. Whether in dollars or manpower, the numbers involved in the care of our veterans must increase drastically. Again, it’s in the numbers.
In the age of the World Wide Web, we all can appreciate the numbers connected with social media. According to Twitter’s calculations, the amount of tweets sent in one day is enough to write a 10 million-page book. Let’s don’t leave out the Facebook numbers. More than 40 percent of Americans log in to Facebook each day, and every 60 seconds almost 300,000 status updates are posted. Imagine the (positive) impact these posts could make. If social media isn’t your thing, there are 759 million websites on the Web to choose from.
Let’s talk blood. Every 2 seconds someone in the United States needs blood and more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. And how about the numbers in disease. In 2014, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and approximately 500,000 people are dying each year because they have this disease. There were an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States last year.
Numbers reflect our down time or what we like to do for entertainment. The average ticket price for the past 5 Super Bowls is $2,830. 171 million people watched the big game this past season while consuming 1.25 billion chicken wings and 7.5 million households bought a new television to watch the game. Then there are the numbers we wanted to know but were afraid to ask. Americans eat enough peanut butter in a year to make more than 10 billion peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and McDonald’s serves 602,000 Happy Meals per day. During a lifetime, we will spend 26 years sleeping, 20 weeks on hold, 23,214 hours doing laundry, 6 months waiting in line, more than 99,000 hours working and 115 days laughing. Looks like we need to find more time for humor. And for the science buffs, did you know these facts? More than 1 million earthquakes shake the earth every year, the tallest tree measures at 435 feet, there are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, and a medium-sized cumulus cloud weighs about the same as 80 elephants.
Whether we like or not, numbers influence our lives in more ways than we’ll ever realize. We will work to decrease some numbers. We will work to increase others. “Numbers have life; they’re not just symbols on paper.” My number is up but, I will leave you with the number 364. It’s the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop…