How an Article on Math Got Me a Spot on Fox TV

Joe Pagano

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So you love to write and you found out about submitting articles on the worldwide web. You ask yourself whether you can actually get good exposure from spending time writing articles and whether it’s worth the effort. After all, like me, you’re a nobody from nowhere. But then again, at one time so were all the celebrities and people in the current media. Well, I started writing articles a little less than a year ago, and when I started, I asked the same questions. Now that the Fox TV interview has aired on television and on their website, I am thoroughly convinced that, yes, article writing is worth the effort. Read on.

On a chilly night Monday, December 5, 2006 Fox 29 TV came down to the Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold, New Jersey to test out my mathematical theory about finding a mall parking spot using mathematics. As Gerald Koplan, the Fox reporter stated, “This method posits an interesting theory. But does it work? Well, we put it to the test, and it does. "

Basically, the method hinges on the two complementary mathematical disciplines of probability and statistics. Much like a mortality table, which is used by insurance companies to predict how many people of a certain age will die in a given year, the parking solution predicts how many cars will “die, " that is vacate their spots, within a given interval of time. Just as an insurance company cannot predict who will die within a given year, only how many; the parking problem cannot predict which car of a group will vacate a spot, only that one of a group will within a given time period.

The purpose of the problem was to show how, using some very basic assumptions and some minimal mathematical theory, a common frustration could be solved. In the problem, the assumption used was that the average time spent shopping during the Christmas season was 120 minutes. Using a mathematical curve called the normal distribution and a famous statistical theory, we can predict that more than 99% of the cars in our sample will vacate the designated parking area within 180 minutes. (Remember we used the average mall stay of 120 minutes to get to this 180 minute number. )

Based on empirical data collected from repeated observations of cars pulling into and leaving parking spots, the normal curve was chosen as the mathematical model to help with this problem. Moreover, the nature of this stochastic process (a stochastic process is a random process involving a sequence of events like here cars pulling in and leaving spots) led to the conjecture that over time, the interval between cars leaving would “smoothe" out and that such interval could be calculated by dividing the number of maximum minutes, in this case 180, by the number of designated cars, in this case 20.

With this information in hand, and the basic assumptions granted, we can with confidence fit a mathematical model to the data so that reliable predictions can be made. What could be easier than doing a simple division to calculate how to find a parking spot? And you thought math was that bad.

See video here (Click here to see the video of the story )

See more at Cool Math Tricks

Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material and an award-winning former teacher of both college and high school mathematics. Under the penname, JC Page, Joe authored Arithmetic Magic, the little classic on the ABC’s of arithmetic. Joe is also author of the charming self-help ebook, Making a Good Impression Every Time: The Secret to Instant Popularity; the original collection of poetry, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure, and the short but highly effective fraction troubleshooter Fractions for the Faint of Heart. The diverse genre of his writings (novel, short story, essay, script, and poetry)—particularly in regard to its educational flavor— continues to captivate readers and to earn him recognition.

Joe propagates his teaching philosophy through his articles and books and is dedicated to helping educate children living in impoverished countries. Toward this end, he donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every ebook. For more information go to


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