Math Always Works the Same

Kirsten Kreiling | Faith, Reflection & Growth | April 2, 2020

Math Is the Same, Today and Forever

What do COVID19, the Flu, and You as a Reflection of God in World Have in Common?

Many of us are not all that crazy about math, but don’t let that scare you from reading this post! You will not have to do any math, and by the end, you’ll understand why the numbers are on your side.

Grim Math

Recently, we’ve been learning more about math than many of us are comfortable with. It turns out that the new coronavirus is pretty good with numbers. Here’s a way to understand its impact vs. the flu:


If you have the “regular flu,” you are likely to infect 1.3 other people. If each of them also infects 1.3, by the time you’ve all passed the flu down the line ten times (10X), about 13 or 14 people will have become infected.

I’m only going to show 2 decimal places because when numbers get too long, they confuse me.

YOU x 1.3 (people you infect) = 1.3                  

         x 1.3 (people they infect) = 1.69

         x 1.3 (etc.) =   2.19           

         x 1.3           =   2.85

         x 1.3           =   3.71

         x 1.3           =   4.82

         x 1.3           =   6.27

         x 1.3           =   8.15

         x 1.3           = 10.60

         x 1.3           = 13.78

And just like that, more than 13 people are (hopefully!) staying home from work and school with the flu. The mathematical equation would look like this 1.3^10 (one point three to the tenth power). 

This flu season so far (Oct 2019-March 2020), somewhere between 36 million and 51 million Americans have gotten sick with the flu, somewhere between 370,000 and 670,000 have been sick enough to be hospitalized, and between 22,000 and 55,000 have died. Although flu seasons vary widely and there are lots of factors to consider, generally for every 1,000 people who get sick with the flu each year, ~1 of them will die. For the 13 people in this case, ~0.01 will die.

I don’t love those numbers, but as far as math goes, it’s not too bad.


It’s so new that we still don’t know a lot about COVID19, but from what we can tell from China’s experience, it looks like if you have COVID19, you are likely to infect 2.0 – 2.5 other people. If each of them also infects 2.0 – 2.5 other people, by the time you’ve all passed the flu down the line ten times (10X), ~1,000 to 6,000 people will have become infected.


2^10                                         OR                       2.5^10

YOU   x 2 (people you infect) = 2                      x 2.5 = 2.50

          x 2 (people they infect) = 4                     x 2.5 = 6.25

          x 2 (etc.)     =       8                                   x 2.5 = 12.50

          x 2              =      16                                   x 2.5 = 25.00

          x 2              =      32                                  x 2.5 = 62.50

          x 2              =      64                                  x 2.5 = 156.25

          x 2              =    128                                   x 2.5 = 390.62

          x 2              =    256                                  x 2.5 = 975.56

          x 2              =    512                                   x 2.5 = 2,441.40

          x 2              = 1,024                                  x 2.5 = 6,103.51


This math is much worse! From one sick person, between 1,000 and 6,000 people would get sick.

As of March 26, globally, ~500,000 (that we know of) have gotten sick from COVID19, and ~24,000 have died. Although these statistics suggest 4.8% of those infected are dying, the WHO predicts the eventual percentage will be more like 3.4%. Using the 3.4% mortality with the example above, from one infected person, somewhere between 34 and 207 people would die.

I really, really don’t like this math!! 

By the way, all the data I’m citing is from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization). You can get up-to-the-minute COVID19 statistics from, named one of the best free reference sites on the web by the American Library Association.

Great Math

Here’s the thing about numbers: They aren’t on anybody’s side. They always work the same. 

If you call two neighbors to see if they’re lonely, and each of them calls 2 neighbors, and so on for 10 generations, there will be more than 1,000 less lonely people in the world. 

If your latest song or painting or film inspires 3 artists to make exceptional art of their own, and so on and so on for 10 generations, 59,049 people’s lives will be enriched by making art. 

But here’s the big one:

If your life is such a reflection of Christ that you get to share your faith with an average of 2 people per year from the time you are 20 until you’re 70, then you’ll share Christ with 100 people during that time. If 20% of them become Christians or come closer to God because of their encounter with you, that’s 20 people you have helped. But let’s say some of them backslide, some get caught up in worldly pursuits, and only 5% of them become committed lifelong Christians. That makes 5 Kingdom workers you have brought to the cause, an average of one per decade of a long life well-lived. That seems doable, right?

If each of those five people can do the same thing, with the same percentages, but only for 30 years, then each of them will transform the lives of three (3) people over that time. If you follow that trend for 10 generations, do you know how many people your example will have influenced? 98,415. That’s ninety-eight thousand, four hundred and fifteen people.

This, my friends, is also the power of math. More importantly, it’s the power of God!

50 years x 2 people/year = 100 people.

100 people x 5% are brought closer to God = 5 people

30 years x 2 people/year = 60 people

60 people x 5% are brought closer to God = 3 people

5 people x 3 people = 15 people in 1 generation

YOU 1 x 5 (people you impact) =  5             

           x 3 (they impact) =            15

           x 3 (etc.)   =                      45  

           x 3            =                      135

           x 3            =                     405

           x 3            =                   1,215

           x 3            =                  3,645

           x 3            =                 10,935

           x 3            =                32,805

           x 3            =                98,415

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