Want kids to get excited about math? Show them this article
    By Hank Campbell | July 13th 2010 06:26 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    How does a former math teacher in Texas keep winning the lottery?  Joan Ginther has hit four Texas Lottery jackpots and raked in $21 million since 1993 ($5.5 million, half of the Texas Lottery jackpot, that first time).  The last time she won was two years ago ($3 million prize from a scratch ticket).  And then two years before that ($2 million scratch ticket again).  And now $10 million in the $140 million Extreme Payout with a scratch ticket (errr ... again).

    The chances of that, if those are the only 4 she ever bought, are 1 in 18 septillion - 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 if your head is wide enough to see all those zeros.   But she might know that, thanks to her PhD in mathematics from Stanford.

    Lucky numbers?   Unlikely, since three of the winners were scratch tickets and one was a lottery draw.

    A system?  You can bet the third time she showed up at lottery headquarters in Austin the fraud alarms went off but they have found nothing.  Whatever the secret, she is not telling, and hasn't said a word since 1993 when she first hit big.  But the people around there say she has been very nice, she bought the local church a van and gave her home to charity when she moved to ... wait for it ... Las Vegas.  I would too.

    A lucky place to buy, perhaps?   A highway gas station called the Times Market has become something of a Mecca for people looking to win big, since she has won twice in it, making it three times in the same town of 3,000 people.  525 Highway 77 Bypass, in Bishop, Texas if you are getting in the car right now.   I'll meet you there.


    Neil Newell
    Ahhh..... The power of extending your education. I, with my simple first degree in mathematics, have for years been refusing to play the lottery based upon the statistical likelihood of winning. Each week, I have proudly held up my shiny £1 coin to my family and proclaimed that I am a "winner" because I've kept hold of the price of a lottery ticket rather than dropping it straight down the drain of false hope. Joan, however, with her PhD from Stanford seems to have rightly realised that " never know?" and won big. If only I'd kept up my studies, it could have been me!!!
    Like those people selling real estate 'systems' on TV, what works for her may not work for all of us.  In a market of millions, someone is going to be a luck outlier, and it happens so infrequently that it is a big deal.   The PhD in math just makes it a fun story.  No way the lottery was getting much attention on a science site otherwise.
    There was a rumor in texas in the 1990s that if you pick mostly higher numbers (I think they went up to 60 at the time) you were more likely to win. The numbers were picked, at that time, by a physical machine kinda like a bingo-ball roller, but agitated by air - 60 balls, all carefully controlled for weight, size, and surface friction - would fly around for a minute before the little door at the bottom of the container would let out 6 of them on live tv.

    I haven't personally seen this in print (I still wouldn't feel certain if I had) but I heard that whoever did this careful controlling of the balls's weight did so *before* painting on the numbers.