Ranking the Numbers 1-10: Counterpoints


In honor of “Pi Day” last week

About a month ago, the Earn This staff and a few of our friends put together our most ridiculous list ever: a ranking of the numbers 1-10. The criteria was intentionally unspecified, and the results were wonderfully disparate. It made for a fun article and some fun arguments.

We had so much fun with it that we decided to return for a reprise of ridiculosity: a collection of thoughts from those who dissented with the aggregate rankings. Whether these people making counter-points are the lone voices of reason or whether they’re even further down the path of lunacy is up to you. (Note: a low rank means high praise and vice-versa.)

Tune in next month when we rank the numbers 11-20. Just kidding. (We wouldn’t go that far, right?)


Average rank: 8.6

Daniel’s rank: 1

Daniel says: Before getting into my counterpoint, let me make one thing clear: everyone else in this ranking is wrong, using metrics like “how they feel” or “popularity” to produce their rankings. I wanted my rankings to represent cold, hard, facts. So I turned to the wide world of sports, specifically: the jersey numbers of NBA all-time leaders in points scored. Because remainder division is stupid, I went only players who wore the actual number (e.g. 3, but not 23).

Eight belongs to the active leader in points scored (and third in points overall), one Kobe Bryant. He wore number 8 for ten seasons before reaching back to his roots and using the first number he wore in high school, 24. But eight represented Kobe in the prime of his career, and should be rewarded as the top single-digit jersey number in basketball.


Average rank: 4.3

Colton’s rank: 7

Colton says: Seven is a fine number, but its significance is largely culture-bound.  Everything else in the top half of these rankings is tied to something universal, something that works in every language.  Some old numerologists cede a special place to seven, but only in a couple of Western cosmologies.  Yes, it’s the number you want to see on the slot machine, and maybe you’re a big Mickey Mantle fan, but I just can’t award a high place to a number whose value is arbitrary when there are so many digits more deserving on intrinsic merit.


Average rank: 8.6

Brian’s rank: 8, but he ranked it first in an outtake of this podcast

Brian says: I saw the clip below as a small child, and it changed me forever. Never before had I considered the concept of a “favorite number.” So for years, I opted to show solidarity with the milquetoast muppet who introduced me to the idea.

Bert’s favorite number…is 6. Thus, it was mine for a long time as well.

Only going back now, in the wake of our “Top 5 for 5” podcast, do I realize that favoring 6 is meant to be just another example of Bert’s hyperbolic boringness. Mentally, the Sesame Street crew lumps 6 together with paper clips, oatmeal, and argyle. Even in the clip itself, Ernie voices the arguments my colleagues will doubtlessly expand upon below: There are five fingers on a hand. There are seven days in a week. There isn’t really six of anything.

“Nobody’s favorite number is six.”

As I mulled over my rankings for this article, 6 admittedly took a hit. I can no longer in good conscience put it at the top of my list. Other digits have more relevance to our lives, and a greater degree of metaphysical potency. But don’t write 6 off altogether. 6 is the highest number of sides a shape can have and still interlock perfectly with itself (just look at a honeycomb, one of the most perfect geometrical structures in nature). Also nifty is that 6 equals both 1+2+3 AND 1x2x3. It’s a triangular number, too – you can set up bowling pins that way if you’re lazy, or can’t find the other four.

Maybe I’m not exactly swaying you. But six nevertheless holds a special place in my heart. As Bert croons in his much better-known song, “Doin’ the Pigeon,”

“People may smile, but I don’t mind / They’ll never understand the kind of fun I find” in 6.


Average rank: 7.3

Will’s rank: 3

Will says: Nine holds the distinction of being the largest single digit number. As such, it is always a representation of extremity. The number nine, or some incorporation of nine, is always used to represent the highest you can go without being perfect, the peak of attainment: “Kills 99.9 percent of germs,” “9 out of 10 doctors agree,” “Purchase this for only nine payments of $9.99.” Yes, in our culture, use of the number nine seems to supersede ten as an expression of magnitude, There are not one hundred bottles of beer on the wall, but ninety-nine. Jay Z did not describe his One hundred problems, but his ninety nine. Mathematically speaking, nine is interesting even at the most basic level. When you learn your times tables, it’s easy to remember the first ten multiples of nine, because the digits add up to nine. Nine is a perfect square, the cloud containing bliss, the idiom for high-class style. Nine serves as the peak of numbers; the only way to surpass it is to add another digit.


Average rank: 2.4

Brad’s rank: 9

Brad says: Bear with me here. I could see most people putting 1 higher, what with it being the first number and all. But it’s so simplistic and overrated. Come on, it’s not even prime! It’s also by far the least original visual design. I can only imagine the brainstorming that went into 1’s design (“Oh I know, We’ll draw a line!”).


Average rank: 4.7

Kevin’s rank: 10

Kevin says: Call me super competitive, but two represents shortcomings to me. Falling just short of being the best. Nobody remembers the second person who finished the race, swam the lap, or purchased the new iPhone 6. Two is that second place trophy next to your brother’s first place. Two is the pat on the back that tells you, “You were so close!” Two sucks. But you know, as an amateur movie critic, I think I despise the number two even more than the normal Joe. Because let’s not forget how many sequels got our hopes up just to smash them and leave us with our heads shaking. Yes. You know what I’m talking about. Jaws: The Revenge. The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The Matrix Reloaded. And then there are other sequels that didn’t even follow good films, leaving you bewildered as to how they got green-lit in the first place. Batman & Robin from Joel Schumaucher again? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen from Michael Bay? HE’S STILL MAKING MOVIES? And probably most offensive of all, Pixar’s only bad film to date, Cars 2. Because that two actually ruined a company’s legacy. Well, at least tarnished it. Pixar <3


Average rank: 4.9

Patrick’s rank: 10

Patrick says: 10 is the worst number in one to ten for many many reasons. First of all, it is the largest number. Instead of incorporating interesting shapes, it is made up of a line and a circle. A person with 10 fingers just isn’t as interesting as someone who has more or less. Ten also has the least interesting multiplication tables – every number multiplied by 10 results in a number with a 0 in it, guaranteed! Most of all, 10 thinks its the best number (10 out of 10? Base 10? It should owe me 10 dollars). I say it is time to knock this number down a peg.


Average rank: 4.9

Kevin’s rank: 1

Kevin says: Come on. How does a top ten list of the numbers one through ten not place ten as one of the best numbers? We, as a society, are obsessed with the number. Why are lists top ten lists in the first place? Why would the Metric system be based on powers of ten? We throw a heavy ball at ten bowling pins. We walk on ten toes. We celebrate ten-year anniversaries. Perhaps why I love the number ten is because my favorite soccer player, Zinedine Zidane, wore the number. But he wasn’t the only great player to do so. Pele. Maradona. Arguably the two fathers of modern soccer wore the number ten on their back. And perhaps the best player in the world currently, Messi, wears the number as well. As a young recreational soccer player watching YouTube videos of these magicians, the number ten became a sign for greatness. It’s the number you need to make a list. It’s something of a landmark in which you can celebrate. 10/10! Ten is a great number, and this list wouldn’t exist without it.

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