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5 Ways to Win at Dating Using Maths

No, no, not impressing people on Tinder with your ability to recite Pi places, this is about finding your optimal stopping point. It’s proper sciencey-mathsy. Tim Harford investigated it on More or Less: The Maths of Dating.

You take the total number of people you have dated, find the square root of that, then carry on dating that many people. You have now reached your optimal stopping point! Then review and pick the best one. The best one of that batch will be The One. Ta-daa! We will now buy our wedding hats.

This got us wondering in which other ways maths could improve dating. If you're a serial dater then there’ll be times when you think, frankly, maths couldn’t make it worse, but let’s be optimistic. Start your calculators!

Carry this formula with you on all dates for ensured success in your love life.


When dating, you will find your ability to do mental multiplication improves rapidly. Admittedly this usually occurs after rows, but nevertheless, it’s a handy skill to have. As you sulk on the bus going home you’ll discover you can calculate with ease the amount of hours you have sat watching Game of Thrones without being able to ask “is she a goody or a baddy?” compared with the times you were allowed to watch Newsnight without the other person sighing heavily and asking how long this goes on for. It’s one of those maths miracles that it ALWAYS comes out with you as the maligned party. Don’t ask us how, ask Stephen Hawking.


Now this is a surprising one for dating, but bear with us. Basically it pops up when you enter the double dating arena. When two couples have been out for dinner and drunk a certain amount of wine and they then decide to divide the bill into four and calculate the tip after removing the wine because Ross wasn’t drinking but Jen and Sarah had the sharing platter….that’s when you need calculus. And a black coffee. And possibly a degree in quantum mechanics.


Geometry enters the relationship usually when things get domestic. It begins with the innocent phrase “You know, I think the table would look much better over there” and it ends with someone wedged up against the wall with a sofa-arm jammed into their midriff while the other person shouts “well how on earth did you get it IN here?” from their position on top of an occasional table half way up the stairs.

How to use mathematics to find your partner. Tim Hartford talks to mathematician and stand-up comedian, Matt Parker.


Algebra is only ever attempted alone. This occurs when you are trying to establish scientifically whether or not you should give the relationship up as a bad job or pursue it. A sample equation would be ‘if a is the number of times she makes me laugh, and x is the number of times she says ‘laters’, multiplied by y which is how many times I’d be expected to see her weird friend, then whatever b is, is the answer.’ This obviously fails utterly but does give the person the erroneous idea that they are somehow in control.


Fractions in dating is an entirely subjective mathematical concept. “My half of the duvet”, for example. Once you’ve spent one night hauling a duvet corner back over your own freezing shoulder while your loving partner twiddles the rest around them like an Egyptian Mummy you have to start building your own equivalent of the Maginot Line. The term ‘half’ in dating can often mean ‘as many as I can get away with’. Therefore “I’ll have half of your chips” means “I will cram as many of your chips down my craw as I can manage while you try not to splutter with indignation because this is the second date and you are trying not to show how much you care about chips.”