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What is a Million?
You hear people use the number "one million" all of the time: "The jackpot is worth over a million dollars! " "About a million people live in Phoenix (or San Francisco, or Dallas, or Detroit, or Baltimore)." "I've told you a million times to make your bed!" "Who wants to be a millionaire?"

You hear "a million" so often that you may think you know how big a million is. But do you really? Have you really been told a million times to make your bed? Have you met everyone in San Francisco? Have you ever tried to count a million dollars one at a time? For that matter, have you ever just tried to count to a million? Ten thousand? Or even one thousand? Counting at a rate of one number every second, it takes about 15 minutes to count to one thousand.

How long would it take to count to a million? Well, counting once per second (easy at the start, but tough when you reach the hundred thousand mark), eight hours per day, seven days per week (no weekends off), it would take you a little over a month to count to one million!

Getting a million of anything is not easy. How large a room does it take to put in a million leaves, or a million blades of grass, or a million grains of sand? How long would it take to gather the stuff? Doing any task a million times, like picking blades of grass or making your bed, takes a long time!

One possible way to actually see a million individual objects is to use a computer and print out a million asterisks. Using a word processor on a computer, type out one page filled with nothing but asterisks. Print the page and count the number of asterisks there are on the page. Divide this number into one million to see how many pages it will take to print one million asterisks. Print out the right number of pages and put them all up on one wall. Then you will be able to see one million objects all at once!

(This is a project best done once with a whole classroom of students. It takes a lot more paper and covers a lot more wall than you probably think!)

Once you have seen a million asterisks, calculate how many classroom walls, like the one you used, it will take to put up one billion asterisks (Don't actually do it. It will take too much paper!)

Image of a birthday cake and a caption that reads: Boy!  Is this Mother Earth's birthday cake...or a forest fire?!

Or just for fun, see how many candles you can put on a birthday cake and then try and figure out how large a birthday cake you would need to celebrate Mother Earth's birthday!

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Geologic Time
Cenozoic Era
Mesozoic Era
Paleozoic Era
The Precambrian Eon
Names on the Staircase of Time
How Old is That Rock?
Geologic Time Activity
Image of a star. What is a Million?
Finding an Event in Time
 
             
     
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Geologic Time | Cenozoic Era | Mesozoic Era | Paleozoic Era | The Precambrian Eon | The Staircase of Time | How Old is That Rock? | Geologic Time Activity | What is a Million? | Finding a Place in Time

Diversity | Adaptation | Plate Tectonics | Cycles | Spheres | Biomes | Geologic Time

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Last updated on
April 28, 2005

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