Love and Math

Did you know that there is an optimal dating strategy for finding your ideal mate?

Well apparently there is.

The solution uses probability calculus to figure out how to maximize the odds of choosing the best option from a series of dates. First published in 1960 by Scientific American, it has become known as the secretary problem or the marriage problem.

In the classic version, the prospects arrive one at a time and in random order, so each one’s rank can only be judged relative to those who have come before. Ties aren’t allowed, and rejections are final.

The conundrum is whether to stick with someone who looks great now at the risk of missing out on someone better, or to keep playing the field and risk losing a good thing. In mathematics, this is known as an optimal stopping problem.

The best strategy, according to the formula, is to reject the first 37% of the prospects, then select the next person who is better than everyone in the initial group.

Another researcher has come up with a different formula. Instead of rejecting the first 37%, this formula supports rejecting the square root of the number of prospects before choosing the next best person. In other words, with 100 prospects, this formula would reject the first 10, rather than the first 37.

Neither of these models would have worked for me, primarily because of small sample sizes.

However, math still played a key role in finding the love of my life, as evidenced by the following:

  • As soon as I met Mary, I knew she was the ONE.
  • My level of happiness MULTIPLIED after I met her.
  • Mary easily INTEGRATED into my circle of friends.
  • I knew she was the one I wanted to spend INFINITY with.
  • Her sense of humor was a good SINE that we would get along.
  • On one of our first dates, she took me to a diner that had the best PI.
  • I remember that COSINE ing our marriage license was such a happy day.

I could keep ADDing to the list, but I think you get the point.

LOVE and MATH – a marriage made in heaven.

P.S. If you would like to create the heart graph that appears at the top of this post, just copy and paste the following into Google:

sqrt(1-(abs(x)-1)^2), arccos(1-abs(x))-pi

and then play around with the zoom button in the top left of the graph and scroll around the graph area to get a perfect heart.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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