The following excerpt is from the Jan. 8, 2016, edition of The Chicago Tribune and was posted before the Jan. 9 Powerball jackpot drawing in which there were no winners. The Fox 4 News video interview with SMU Mathematics Professor Scott Norris was done Wednesday morning, Jan. 13, 2016, when the jackpot had increased to $1.5 billion.
January 13, 2016
The record-breaking $700 million Powerball jackpot is the stuff of dreams, but it all boils down to math. From the huge prize to the enormous odds against winning it, Saturday night's drawing is a numbers game that gives players good reason to brush up on their algebra, maybe as they stand in line to buy a ticket. A look at some of the statistics:
DOES MATH OFFER ANY HINTS TO IMPROVE THE ODDS?
Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, said there's no trick to playing the lottery, but your tiny odds of winning are a bit better if you let the computer pick rather than choosing yourself. That's because when people use birthdates or other favorite figures, they generally choose numbers 31 or below. That ignores the fact that there are 69 numbered balls.
HOW MUCH DOES BUYING MULTIPLE TICKETS HELP?
Your odds increase with additional tickets, but it's important to keep in mind how small they are to begin with. If you have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning with one ticket, you have 10 times the odds if you buy 10 tickets. Yet the probability is still incredibly small.
"The odds are so astronomically small that even 100 times that number is exceedingly unlikely to win," Norris said. "It's probably still not going to happen if you buy a hundred tickets or a thousand tickets or even a million tickets."
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