Dr. Mike’s Big Numbers Contest
For the last day of school, we decided to have all the kids in the school (ages 5-14) spend 5 minutes on Dr. Mike’s “Big Numbers” contest.
The rules, from Dr. Mike were:
- You may write anything at all in the box on the entry form labeled “Write your number here”. I will try to interpret what you write as a number.
- If I cannot interpret what you write as a real, finite number, your entry will be disqualified (in particular,
you can’t write ‘infinity’)
- The winner will be the student whose number is bigger than those of all others in the contest
- Your number should fit entirely inside the box, which is 4 inches wide and 2 inches high.
As I mentioned above, we also limited the kids to 5 minutes.
The kids all had a lot of fun, and I think we got a lot more interesting entries than Dr. Mike did. I’ve scanned a few representative and interesting ones here. Please excuse the hard-to-read scans — most of them were written in pencil.
Slightly older kids (7- to 9-year-olds) tended to come up with entries like these:
This 9-year-old knew about powers (though not their notation) and came up with a really big number….
… though I think not as big as the second of the numbers listed by this eight-year-old (who I think believed that he had written out a googolplex at the top, though in actual fact it is only a googol):
The googol/googolplex theme was popular among the 11-year-olds, though interestingly they all spell it like the search engine
The 12-year-olds remembered about factorials!
…and the 13-year-olds combined factorials and powers:
But I’m pretty sure the largest number of all was this entry by the lone 14-year-old in the group (it was his 14th birthday the day of the exercise):