Million Dimes

Visualizing huge numbers can be very difficult for students. Even though we talk about a million, it is very hard to grasp just how much a million is. The Socrates Academy Million Dimes Project’s aim is to takes one small everyday item, the dime, and build on that to answer the question, “What would a million dimes look like?”

How Big Is a Million

One million looks like this:


It is exactly one thousand 'thousands'.

It is also 106, or 10x10x10x10x10x10

The number 'one million' is very familiar. You hear it mentioned all the time... a million dollars ... a million years ... a million reasons ... but how big IS one million??

Can you count to one million? How long would it take?

Imagine you start counting. You say one number per second. (Maybe you think you can count faster than this. On the small numbers, you probably can. But just try to say one number every second beginning at 'three hundred ninety seven thousand, four hundred and twenty seven'! Perhaps one per second is a little over-optimistic!)

At one number per second, it will take one million seconds to count to one million. (That was a tough calculation!) One million seconds is about 16,667 minutes, or 278 hours.
Suppose you consider it your job to count to one million. You are going to spend eight hours every day, just counting! Those 278 hours will take almost 35 days to complete.
So I guess the answer is ... YES, you could count to one million. At eight hours per day, it would take you 35 days! What about one million years? Unfortunately, there is no way to visualize this number. If you are 10 years old, you've only been alive for one-thousandth of one percent of a million years! Hardly noticeable at all! In fact, the entire recorded history of mankind (back to about 5000BC) is only about half a percent of the last million years. A million years is a long time!

O.K., enough big numbers. 

In other words, one million of something that you can hold in your hand. One million bacteria don't count. Nor do one million grains of sand. They're too small to see easily. What is big enough to hold in your hand, that you can visualize one million of?

Consider a dime?

The diameter of a dime coin is about two centimeters, a little less than half an inch. There are about 13 dimes in 8 cubic centimeters.  A dime weighs 2.268 grams. 1 pound equals 453.59237 grams. A million dimes would fit in a cube approximately 3 feet square and would weigh about 5000 pounds.

As a project for the school we have organized this “Million Dimes Project”. It may take us years to accomplish, but not only will we add some enthusiasm and understanding of the visualization of a million of something, we will also raise $100,000 for our fundraising campaign.



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