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What is a Number Cruncher?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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A number cruncher is one of those exciting-sounding terms that means pretty much what it sounds like it does: it's a thing or a person who works with numbers. The most recognizable kind these days is a computer. The vast majority of the functions within a computer are done by a calculator, which was the original definition of the term.

Actually, technically speaking, a number cruncher can be a slide rule or even an abacus, since those devices can perform many calculations as well. The idea of those calculations being done very quickly brings electronic devices like calculators and computers to mind. Every so often, a computer company will make the news with claims of the new fastest time for calculations of things like pi to 100 places.

A number cruncher is also a software application. Commonly designed for younger students, this software performs multiple calculations quickly while teaching young students the importance of knowing the theory and rules behind those calculations. Many applications are available, with prices ranging from free to hundreds of US dollars.

Software applications that perform functions with numbers can also be used to manipulate data or create new data from existing data sets. Perhaps the most basic form of this kind of application is a random number generator. This kind of computer program runs an algorithm that drives the computer to pick a number at random from a huge list and display that number on the screen or insert it in the active part of another application. If we look deeper in the coding that runs certain popular software applications, we can find number cruncher elements like the random number generator and other kinds of data manipulation. The best-selling software applications, even the world’s most popular computer games, make use of this technology in order to create and manipulate situations on grids and layouts for alternate worlds or just plain repetitive-motion games.

A number cruncher can also be a person. These people include statisticians and financial analysts. Someone who is a financial analyst can have many different kinds of jobs. Common fields include stocks and securities, real estate, accounting, and banking. It is usually the case that a human number cruncher will use the electronic type to make the necessary calculations for his or her work.

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Discussion Comments
By anon346723 — On Aug 31, 2013

Some years ago I invented a math program that in over 1,000 lotto draws, has always had the winning numbers and recently, I and a friend have computerized that program. My friend and I wish to win, but we need a non-random number generator that allows us to input a given group of numbers from my program so that the generator produces sets of 6 numbers some 40 to 50 sets of 6 until all given combinations are covered. Can anyone help? I am willing to share.

By BambooForest — On Jul 19, 2011

@poppyseed- I am the same way. I used to enjoy doing simple math, because I actually find it sort of relaxing to work out the problems. When it comes to anything past basic algebra, though, I get confused easily. I had friends who were really number smart though, and while it wasn't "cool" in high school, they mostly went on to good universities and now have good careers as well.

By poppyseed — On Jul 18, 2011

I wish I were one of those people who were real number crunchers, but unfortunately, I am just the opposite.

Numbers and I do not get along in the least. The other day, I literally forgot how to subtract.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a stupid woman by any means…I just cannot get numbers wrapped around my mind. They are beyond me.

Thank goodness for the non-human kinds of number crunchers known as calculators! I don’t know who invented them, but I’d love to kiss him some days.

By mabeT — On Jul 18, 2011

I am married to a real number cruncher. This man is amazing when it comes to remembering all kinds of numbers and figuring them quickly in his head; no paper, pen or calculator required.

One great example of his genius is the fact that he can recite a huge number of tangents and cotangents from heart. For some odd reason, he had to learn all of these during his first year of college, and can still just spill ‘em anytime he takes a notion to.

Another example is that he still remembers the first time he met my parents after we started dating. He doesn’t recall the conversation or what I wore; oh, no. Those are too common kinds of things to recall.

My mother is a big coffee drinker, and he counted each and every packet of sugar and cream that she added. He still remembers that figure to this day. That was about thirteen years ago.

Yes, it’s safe to say that I married a little number cruncher indeed.

By latte31 — On Jul 18, 2011

@Comfyshoes - I think that more people should number crunch these figures before they buy a car. I wanted to add that the ability to do mental math is really important and something that should be fostered in children.

I think that calculators are good, but if you can do the calculations in your head that is even better. My kids go to a supplemental math program twice a week that teaches them how to do mental math calculations and I will tell you they are much faster at coming up with a number crunching equation than I am.

I know that some use of calculators is important for very difficult mathematical equations, but the longer kids avoid the calculator the more their minds will stretch.

I was recently reading about Vedic math which originated in India, and they have a method of making very difficult calculations really quickly. This has been around for thousands of years and it is very impressve how they come up with the answers. This is something that I would like my kid's to learn eventually.

By comfyshoes — On Jul 17, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I have heard of a lot of people saving money like that and they are usually very organized and number crunch everything. They usually have spread sheets of what they are going to buy so their savings are no surprise to them.

I think that number crunching is also important when you are buying a car. There are a lot of sites that will offer you the basic price of a car and will even tell you the mark up of the car.

You really have to make sure that you crunch the numbers to make sure that you can afford a car, because a car payment like a mortgage payment has added expenses like insurance. So you really have to consider the cost of the insurance before you buy the car to make sure that the insurance premiums are acceptable for your new car.

Sometimes buying a used car makes more financial sense.

By sunshine31 — On Jul 17, 2011

@Oasis11 - I think that is true. I also like to try to assess my grocery bill before I go out shopping. I think by budgeting and sticking to a plan you can really make your money stretch a bit.

I have a friend that swears by coupons. She clips those things every week and after doing some number crunching she was telling me that she saved $150 a month in just coupons.

This does not even count the savings that she received from the items being on sale. If you think about it that is about $1,800 a year in manufacturer’s coupons. That is amazing. To her it is like a number cruncher game to see how much you can save.

A lot of people don’t factor coupons when they shop for groceries and based on these figures maybe they should.

By oasis11 — On Jul 16, 2011

I think that it is important to be a number cruncher when you are purchasing anything. If you analyze the prices of things before you buy them you can really save a lot of money.

I usually look at a lot of comparison sites online in order to compare the purchase price of a high ticket items. I also go to a lot of online real estate sites in order to gauge the real estate market in my area.

I usually do mental calculations in my head in order to determine what the mortgage payment would be on a piece of real estate. I use the figure of $500 per every hundred thousand as a rough estimate of what my mortgage would look like.

So basically, I do my number crunching and realize that a home that is valued at $500,000 would require me to put a 20% down payment of 20% which is one fifth of $500,000 or $100,000.

My mortgage would then be approximately $2,000 per month which is $500 divided by $400,000. If you do these calculations in your head enough times, you can instantly see if you can afford a property or not and will not have to resort to a lot of number crunching.

I know that usually the interest rates are lower than 5%, especially for a fifteen year fixed rate mortgage, but it is always better to overestimate a little than to underestimate.

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