A Silly Spreadsheet Mistake

I apparently don’t know how to do math anymore.

November 12, 2019Filed under blog#humor#math#writingMarkdown source

Assumed Audience: people who find nerdy mistakes amusing—especially my wife, who rolls her eyes at all my shenanigans of this variety.


Offered for your amusement, reader:

As I’ve been working on my November writing goal, I set up a spreadsheet to track it—being a good nerd and all.

I was confused because while I had estimated that 500 words/day would see me hit 15,000 words, and I had been averaging a bit north of 800 words per day, my spreadsheet kept showing the expected final count going down… from ~17,000 a few days ago when I looked it up for the latest issue of my newsletter, to ~16,000 when I looked at it after today’s time working on an essay.

I stared at the math in the spreadsheet for a minute tonight, before it finally hit me: I had gotten fancy with the calculation, pulling in the number of days remaining and multiplying that times the average so far… but not including what I’d already written. It turns out that the only way I could hit my goal following this math would be exponentially increasing my output until the on final day I was averaging 15,000 words per day. (15,000 words/day × 1 day = 15,000 words.)

The correct math is, uhh, “Multiply the average per day by 30. Done.”

The postscript, of course, is more nerdery: I redefined my expected output to use that simple math… but then also added a column so I could see what my expected total would be if I took the words I’ve written up through today and then only wrote 500 words each day remaining: the minimum I can expect to hit if I stay on track. You can’t stop the nerdery.