**Correction: ***The cost of purchasing every possible ticket combination was miscalculated in the previous version of this post. It has been changed to the correct value.*

Every so often, the news media becomes all abuzz when a particular lottery jackpot starts to grow really large. Right now is one of those times, with no winner on Saturday putting the jackpot for Wednesday’s drawing at around $1.3 Billion, the largest lottery jackpot in US History.

My students sometimes ask me, as a math teacher and a guy who “knows numbers,” whether I play the lottery. Usually I just smile and tell them I buy the occasional scratch ticket for the fun of it, but almost never anything beyond that. It would require a “special occasion” or a “huge jackpot” for me to consider buying one.

This certainly seems like one of those special occasions.

To understand how to approach this question from a math standpoint, we first need to understand the probability of winning.

Continue reading Mathematical Musing: Will I be Buying a Powerball Ticket? →