This Magical Number Will Help You Find A Parking Space, The Perfect Apartment, And Even A Suitable Spouse

Aadhya Khatri - Mar 18, 2020


This Magical Number Will Help You Find A Parking Space, The Perfect Apartment, And Even A Suitable Spouse

That math percentage plays an important role in optimal stopping, which determines exactly when you should act while facing a number of options

If you have your own place, congratulation because you will not have to join the tiring hunt called apartment searching.

The dilemma here is that you lay down a list of criteria but none of the ones you have visited can meet them all. That leaves us with a pressing question, when to stop hunting and settle down?

It might come as a surprise for you but this is a problem math can help you with. One should reject the options at hand to the fraction of around 1/2.718, or you may know it as Euler’s number. So the fraction works out to 37%.

That percentage plays an important role in a mathematical algorithm called optimal stopping, which determines exactly when you should act while facing a number of options with limited information about the future.

The application of the algorithm can help you decide a bunch of other things, like when to buy something or when to stop looking for the perfect parking space.

So with the example of an apartment hunt, if you give yourself around a month to look, 37% of your time exploring the options you have. In simpler terms, math advises you to spend 11 days (37% of a month) visiting apartments and take notes of all their advantages and disadvantages. And after 11 days, take the first one you consider better than all of the ones you have visited.

math 37% apartment
After 11 days, take the first apartment you consider better than all of the ones you have visited

This method does not work every time but it gives you a better chance of landing a decent place to live, mathematically, according to the British mathematical biologist, Kit Yates.

While the idea sounds new, the underlying principle of optimal stopping has been around since the 19th century. Mathematicians have been using it to calculate stock options and industrial production in World War II. But we can use it for our day-to-day tasks.

Here are some of the applications.

When you are at a crowded supermarket, if there are ten available checkout lines, past the first four and choose the first one that is shorter.

Yates also use this method to find a suitable car when he boards a train. Walk past 37% of the cars available and then settle on the first that is less crowded.

Railways math 37%
Yates also use this method to find a suitable car when he boards a train. Walk past 37% of the cars available and then settle on the first that is less crowded

The optimal stopping is also called the secretary problem as some mathematicians have used it to solve the issues of hiring.

Hypothetically, a manager had to interview 100 candidates and informed each of them at the end of the interview whether they got the job.

So with the 37% method, the manager should evaluate 37 out of 100 and then give the job to the first thereafter who is better than all of the previous candidates.

Of course, there is a chance that the most suitable candidate might come after the manager had made up his mind about who to hire or the candidate was among the ones being rejected. However, this method gives the manager the highest chance of hiring the best candidate.

The optimal stopping method can also help with romance and deciding who to marry.

If you started dating since 18 years old and each year you are in a serious relationship until you are 35. So the 37% rule works out to a conclusion that you should settle down with the first person you meet who is better than all of those you have dated, given that he or she has the same thought about you.

It might sound ruthless but it is efficient, according to math.

>>> A Math Formula Tells Us How Long Everything Will Live

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