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In the dating game, people often want to wind up with their best possible match. This can present a dilemma, though: if you’re dating someone great, should you commit, or could there be someone else out there who’s better?

In order to win the dating game, in this lesson students explore the “waiting game,” which provides a rule of thumb for how many people you should date before being willing to settle down. By modeling some probability distributions, students will come up with a rule to try to maximize their relationship happiness, and will talk about whether playing the waiting game is really the best way to find their best match.

Students will

  • Based on the rules of a dating “waiting game,” determine how often you wind up with your top match
  • Calculate the chances of ending up with your top match, based on how long you wait before you can commit
  • Describe rules that guarantee either you will or won’t wind up with your best match
  • Use simulations to come up with general strategies for the waiting game given a dating pool of varying size
  • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of the dating model used, and suggest improvements

Before you begin

Students should have some previous experience with the Fundamental Counting Principle (for example, if there are 3 ways to do one thing and 2 ways to do another, they should understand why there are 3 × 2 = 6 possible ways to do the pair of things together).

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


Deborrah Cooper