When I was at school the single most boring word in the English language was “math”. In fact, when I acted up at night my parents would show me a math textbook and I’d be out cold in approximately eight seconds. True story. BUT! It turns out math is actually a really cool, really surprising subject that will blow your mind on a regular basis. Who knew? I do, and now you will too.
Here are 25 Mind-Blowing Facts about Math.
This is no spelling mistake. Note how I’m saying P-I-E and not P-I. I’m talking cherry, chicken, chocolate in a pastry case, not PI like you might expect. “Pi” is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, and is represented by a weird symbol that’s been around since the eighteenth century. You may also be familiar with the movie Pi from 1998. “Pie” on the other hand is a dinnertime favorite, the recipe for which dates back to Ancient Egypt. What’s the direct connection here? Well, if you write Pi out to 2 decimal places you see this: “3.14”. But if you flip it you get this. Mmm, tasty. And mind-blowing.
From crusty pies to crusty pizza pies. Do you know what the volume of a cylinder is? I’ll save you some time – we use our old friend “Pi”. If you take that volume and multiply it by the radius squared, then by its height, you’re left with: PIZZA. We get the “Z” from the radius and the “A” from the height. Technically you should put “PI*Z*Z*A” if you’re including the multiplication symbols but I’ve chosen not to. I’m not a fan of extra toppings! If you’re finding this list is making you hungry, you’re not alone. I should warn you, it’s only going to get yummier.
Here’s a stat that’ll blow your mind, not to mention boost your waistline. Those of us with romantic partners know the efforts people go to when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Typically you’ll buy your loved one a box of chocolates and, with so many of us relying on cocoa solids to give our relationship a boost, that adds up to a lot of confectionery. 58 million lb of chocolate are bought in the week before the big day alone! That’s the weight of around 60 oil tankers.
Math isn’t just used to work out stuff like angles and equations. You can use it in baking too, with stomach-filling results. Specifically you can create what’s described as the perfect cookie. This is achieved using the 3-2-1 ratio. What’s that? In recipe terms, it means that you have 3 parts flour to 2 parts fat to 1 part sugar. And, if you’re not aware of all things baking, I’ll elaborate! Basically, whatever amount you need in sugar is then doubled for the amount of fat, and then tripled for the amount of flour. Put these things together and you should find yourself in cookie heaven. Enough with the food already, my tummy is rumbling…
A lot of mind-blowing facts about math involve common misunderstandings. Take “a hundred” for example. What do you think a hundred is? One hundred, right? Nope. In fact it means 120! Thanks to the duodecimal system, we have the wrong idea about what seems like a straightforward description. The duodecimal system itself was introduced through ancient cultures, and is based on the number 12. Everything is calculated with this number as a base. Which brings me to “Hundrath”.
Not a character from Game of Thrones, but the ancient Norse word, translating as “long hundred”. Because they relied on the number 12, and because we adapted their word for our modern usage, we’re left with a false impression about what “a hundred” actually means.
Is it just me, or is the Moon a pretty small place? When you see people walking on the lunar surface, in examples such as the classic Moon landings footage and photos from 1969, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a little piece of rock which orbits our planet. However, the actual size of the Moon will surprise you. The radius alone is an eye opener. Using math, we can work out that the Moon’s radius is around 1,080 miles between the center and the surface. That’s the equivalent of a journey between New York and Florida!
You probably already know that around 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. It’s a great time to be a fish. Or is it? Taking a deep dive into the subject reveals the wet stuff isn’t as lovely as it seems. Looking at stats across the planet, we see that a mere 3% is freshwater. And most of that is in the form of ice. We rely on non-salty water for drinking purposes. So, if we need to travel to the frozen wastes in order to collect the scant amount that’s there, we may be facing a big problem down the line.
A dozen equals 12. Even a math dunce knows that. Think of a baker’s dozen and you’re probably picturing 12 juicy donuts, or 12 freshly-baked loaves of bread. But this isn’t the case at all. Turns out a baker’s dozen is actually 13. Unlucky for some, depending on whether you count 13 donuts as an unfortunate situation. The reason behind this stretches, like dough you could say, all the way back to the thirteenth century and the time of Henry III.
There was a problem with bakers not giving customers value for money. After a Royal decree ordering them to straighten up and fly right, they then overcompensated to avoid a harsh punishment. Hence, 12 became 13. It was better than winding up in a dungeon. Plus, isn’t it a strange coincidence that the baker’s dozen of 13 was introduced in the thirteenth century…? Mind-blowing and spooky.
Let’s move on from meals and misunderstandings and start focusing on the big names in math, the heavy hitters. Like Pythagoras. Remember giving yourself a headache trying to understand Pythagoras Theorem back in the day? You may be surprised to know that Pythagoras didn’t even come up with the idea in the first place! Plimpton 322 is where you need to look for the truth.
It sounds kinda like a hair restoration product, but in fact Plimpton 322 is an ancient Babylonian tablet. So, while the classic idea that the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the opposite sides dates back several thousand years, it took till the sixth century BC for Pythagoras to popularize it, and stick his name on it. Now I’ve got to go and lie down, my head’s about to go pop.
If you’ve not heard of the Fibonacci sequence before, prepare to have your mind not only blown, but bent into the shape of a pretzel prior to detonation! Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician in the thirteenth century, who discovered something so powerful that it reflected the world around him in multiple ways. This sequence is so perfect it’s also referred to as the Golden Ratio.
What makes it like that? Look at a seashell for example, and its spiral design. Or a much bigger thing, such as a hurricane. They follow naturally occurring patterns that can be expressed via the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is made up of the sum of the 2 previous numbers. 0 + 1 = 1, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5… and so on. Fibonacci worked out that a mathematical sequence appeared to underpin a lot of stuff in our surrounding environment. Pretty much demonstrating that Mother Nature was one heck of a mathematician.
If you work in a place with a bunch of other folks you are always going to be celebrating someone’s birthday. Break open the cake boxes, it’s Steve in the mail room’s special day! Then Susan in accounts needs a shout out! Now Hakim the IT guy is due a slice! It never ends. Yet birthdays also present a mind-blowing math-based reality. Or, to be more precise, a “birthday problem”. This discovery, and it isn’t clear who made it, revealed that a random sample of people on any given day will always feature at least a couple of birthdays in the mix. Not sure why it’s described as a problem. To me it just means cake and plenty of it. Fire up those candles I say!
If you’re thinking of hitting pause and grabbing some sugar, don’t go anywhere. We have some more mind-blowing facts coming at you, like a math teacher driving to a calculator convention…
The number 4
Now we’re going to look at numbers that are given special qualities. Unlucky numbers, numbers with surprising backstories, that kind of thing. What number are we beginning with? 4. Yes, it may seem pretty ordinary, but 4 is special in its own way. If you write it out, you’ll probably see what we mean. You spell it F-O-U-R. Four letters to write the number 4.
Hmm, is that so special, spelling a number with the same amount of letters? It most definitely is, because 4 is the only example where this happens. Plus, if you bump it up to 40 then there’s another intriguing fact – the word “forty” is spelled with all the letters in alphabetical order. So, as you can see, stuff related to 4 can be a real talking point for mathematicians.
For number 13 on our rundown we’ve chosen… the number 13. We may be asking for trouble being so on point regarding the world’s unluckiest number. However, it gets me thinking. Why is 13 considered unfortunate in the first place? It seems to have a long and not very noble history. Let’s start with Loki. This classic hellraiser, who according to Marvel Studios is an absolute dreamboat, creates chaos wherever he goes. Even what’s described as a dinner party for the Norse gods wasn’t safe from his pandemonium-inducing presence. An ancient poem describes how he rocked up and began throwing shade on his fellow deities.
Now, his position at the table was said to be number 13. Coincidence? Maybe not. Those who know their Bible studies are aware that Judas is considered the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. Ultimately it isn’t known precisely how we came to loathe the number 13. You can see it in various historical details, all of them grim. It’s just one of those thoughts that stuck, and is still with humankind today.
There are little numbers. There are big numbers. And then there are numbers that are so big they smash their way out the side of the calculator. One of the most eye-wateringly large numbers in existence is the Googolplex. That consists of a 1 followed by no less than 100 zeroes, or ten raised to the power of a hundred.
Yes, we’re aware that when we say “a hundred” it doesn’t technically mean “one hundred”, as we mentioned earlier. You’re just being a teacher’s pet now, get off my case! By the way, if you’re wondering if this is where Google got its name from, then you’d be correct. In fact the world-beating search engine was originally going to be called Googol. When someone managed to misspell that, an internet legend was born.
We’re approaching the top 10 of mind-blowing facts about math. Think we might be running out of steam? You’d be wrong. We still have a payload of head scratching facts to go, from the humble goose to a child’s Lego set. Never let it be said that we don’t give you variety here at List 25!
Our next entry concerns counting cards. Specifically playing cards. I don’t know about you, but I am mesmerized by the sight of an expert card sharp shuffling their pack. If you’re anything like me, trying to perform this move results in cards flying all over the shop. Yet beyond the visual spectacle, there is a crazy mathematical detail behind a good shuffle. Can you believe there are so many ways to shuffle a deck of cards that the combinations could theoretically last longer than the lifespan of the universe? As stated by Cassandra Lee of McGill University, the hand of cards you hold in your palm during a game is a complete one off. How many of these combinations are there? Apparently 8×1067, or 8 x 67 zeroes, is an approximate guess.
You’ve heard of the saying “a tough old bird”, right? Well that applies to the Canada goose more than most. They famously migrate through the air, for both food and climate purposes. When it comes to how far they actually travel, the facts are going to blow your mind.
The numbers are enough to impress any mathematician. The overall journey encompasses a colossal 2 – 3,000 miles. Pretty tiring. And it becomes even wilder when you hear about the daily flight rate. A particularly determined goose – there’s a description I never thought I’d use on this channel – can cover an incredible 1,500 miles in one go. You’ll never look at a UK Christmas dinner the same way again.
Men are odd
Here’s a fact that’ll boggle your brain. Gender can be linked to numbers! Back in 2012, a study was published that explored the idea of a connection between certain numbers and certain sexes. This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it can be traced back to both Ancient Greece and Ancient China. Reportedly an even number represents a female and an odd one represents… you’ve guessed it.
Us guys. I always thought we were a little peculiar anyway. Things get a bit more specific with the research I mentioned earlier. Babies were assigned odd and even numbers, giving folk very little to go on when it came to identification. In a startling development, people thought the odd numbered babies were male and the even numbered ones female. Because it’s such a long standing idea, I can only guess as to why this appears to be hard-wired into our brains. People just seem to think that way, which is simply amazing.
I want you to imagine you’re at a party with 8 guests. There’s a cake, yum yum, and you need to divide it into 8 pieces. Not just 8 pieces, but those pieces need to be the same size so people don’t go away feeling short changed.
My question is, what’s the fastest way to do this? I’m going to let you in on a mind-blowing mathematical secret. You can get 8 pieces of cake making just 3 cuts of the knife! The details are surprisingly simple. You cut your cake down the middle, then across. Okay, that’s only 4 pieces. You get the 8 by stacking up the 4. You then cut it in half and there you have it. 8 satisfied guests.
Celsius and Fahrenheit are used to measure temperature, though they can easily cause confusion. They’re separate things of course, Celsius being a standard found worldwide and Fahrenheit being mainly associated with the US.
However, all that’s redundant when it comes to a particular temperature. There’s one reading where Celsius and Fahrenheit don’t matter, due to the fact that they become one and the same. This specific temperature is -40. I could tell you exactly how the calculation is made, but that’s going to take up a video in itself. All you need to know is that two different systems match up at the magic number of -40. It’s incredible enough for me. Good to know if you’re out in the Arctic perhaps!
A Rubik’s cube is one of the most recognizable puzzles on the planet. You can have hours of fun twisting the colorful bricks and getting them all to line up. While you’re having this fun, has it ever occurred to you that you are enjoying math? You don’t crack the cube by playing with it at random. There is a methodical and precise way to get where you’re going.
Its inventor Ernő Rubik stated that it took him weeks to solve. And he’s the guy who came up with it! I won’t spoil things by revealing the fastest way to solve a Rubik’s cube. Where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’ll give you an idea of how many ways there are to scramble one of these beauties… 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. No wonder the Rubik’s cube has endured as a brain teaser.
I said earlier that 4 is unique, in that it contains the same number of letters, i.e. 4, F-O-U-R. This makes it special, however not everyone is happy with the number 4. The reasons for this go beyond the world of mathematics and into the realm of superstition. You see in Asia there’s a word meaning “death”, that sounds worryingly similar to “4”. That must be a drag when it comes to birthdays. “My baby is 4.” “Your baby is dead??” That would put a dampener on the festivities I’m sure.
Still you could always impress people with your “cutting 8 slices of cake in 3 moves” trick. On a serious note, this affects different aspects of society over there. 4 is reportedly seen as a no no for a house number, or your phone number. 3 doesn’t come off so well either. It’s generally believed that 3 is the magic number for breakages. If you accidentally drop and smash a mug, you might want to think about finding another pair of mugs you don’t much care for and throwing them on the floor. That way there’s a positive outlook, though if friends drop by for a coffee you’re kind of stuck.
You may think that you lose the occasional hair from your head on a daily basis. Actually the stats on this are a lot more surprising… and horrifying. Believe it or not, you are set to lose between 50 and 100 hairs from dawn to dusk. Luckily there are approximately 100,000 hairs up there anyway, so provided you have a full head of hair there’s not much to worry about. Still, that is one extraordinary amount to shed. Where do they all go? Something to bear in mind next time you’re chuckling at a bald person.
As a child, I loved Lego. It’s great to see kids still using it today. Kids plus adults, if you watch stuff like Lego Masters. There’s a real art to handling these colorful bricks, though you can always just cram ‘em together and hope for the best. It’s guaranteed fun either way. How much Lego is produced by those billionaire brick magnates? The answer is mind-expanding.
There are around 36,000 bricks emerging from the Lego factory EVERY MINUTE. Multiply that into a typical working day and we have enough Legos to build a real Death Star, not just a toy one. In another extraordinary move, Lego has become the world’s biggest supplier of wheels. They apparently beat the likes of Goodyear! Though good luck winning the Grand Prix with tiny plastic wheels.
Is there such a thing as a beautiful number? Some certainly believe there is, and that number is 6174. Doesn’t sound particularly lovely, I have to say, so what’s the story here? Also known as “Kaprekar’s Constant”, after the twentieth century mathematician D.R. Kaprekar, it takes a deep dive into how 6174 is arrived at.
Here’s the system he worked out. Take a number with 4 digits, which should feature 2 or more different digits, one of which is zero. Then create another number using the same method. Next, you need to arrange both numbers so the digits are in ascending and descending order respectively. Then subtract the smaller one from the larger one. Then keep subtracting until you land on a specific number, which reportedly is 6174. Quite why this happens isn’t clear. But it does demonstrate how a seemingly ordinary number can have a fascinating and beautiful pattern behind it.
Even if you don’t know much about philosophy, you’ll have probably heard of Plato. This Ancient Greek figure loved nothing more than to apply his mind to various aspects of everyday life. One of these aspects was social engineering. He took a decidedly mathematical approach to this, stating that there was a specific number of citizens required in a state in order for everything to run smoothly. That number was 5040. How did he come to this conclusion? For him, 5040 could be divided up efficiently in order to have a happy and healthy society. The reasons he gives for this are… well, mathematical. And it should be pointed out there’s no evidence to back up his claims, other than he had a nice long thinking session, and that’s what he came out with. This alone is enough to blow anyone’s mind.
Are there any mind-blowing facts about math you think we’ve left out? Have we miscalculated or did we sum it all up pretty nicely? Let us know in the comments.