The Math of Dating – Mark Yourself Excelled


This story is for those who say they are scared of math, who believe they do not have math aptitude, and are mistaken in thinking that they are bad with numbers. Take a look at your dating adventures and see how the magical wand of math has guided your choices. You probably did not realize this was math, but you have applied it joyfully and wisely.

As children we all admire the same superhero and fairytale characters, but look at how our dating preferences change as we grow up. In preschool we like the boys that share our interests and don't bump into us too often. In elementary school we forget about or avoid the other gender. In middle school we fall for popularity (that is mode in math terms, read more here), and only in high school do we start to separate our heart signal from the surrounding noise and realize our true preferences. We notice individuality, which is a deviation from average (in fancy math lingo). Analyzing past dates and attractions, we gradually refine our desired partner “model.”

And then there is the math of a “chance encounter” with the object of your attraction. When we are predicting the most likely place to bump into the target of our obsession – in math jargon, we are maximizing the probability of a chance event by creating favorable conditions. If you go jogging on a college racing track when his team is practicing football – mark your self “excelled” at math. If you volunteer at the Down-to-Earth convention, imagining potential encounters with a skinny shy environmentalist you feel attracted to – mark “excelled.” If you dream of a beau with a Michael Phelps' body and consider joining the pool – go for it. Find these creatures in their natural habitat. Shall you invite your better-shaped girlfriend to come along? Bad idea. This will definitely lower the probability of your desired outcome!

OK, you went on a date or maybe two. How can you choose between Bob (the Michael Phelps' body) and Sam (a blind date that your mom has set up)? What qualities do you look for in a partner at your current stage in life? What is important and how much? Perhaps the date comparison table below may be of some help:

Sam's score does look better. Perhaps mom was right.

Have you had plenty of dates and could not choose the right one yet? Are you one of those who have lost their high school sweetheart searching for more experiences? Or ran away from a marriage proposal, afraid to commit too soon? Your intuition goes hand-in-hand with math. Choosing too early is not optimal, but waiting forever is also a bad idea. Math advises considering 37% of your potential partner circle to understand the whole set and be confident in making the right choice thereafter. The optimal dating policy promising highest probability of selecting the best partner is to date and reject the first 37% of candidates and then select the next who is better than all your previous dates. You will then easily forgive “your chosen one” his nasty addictions such as to iPhone fart application, having sampled the other alternatives out there.

So, welcome math! Your new ally, adviser and friend. You are doing great using it: happy mathematical dating.

Top image by Naomi P., distributed under CCL.

Read more by The Math Mom about signal-to-noise ratio in gossip, national security and your closet or The Math of Ex.


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