How Do You Measure, Measure A Year?

I have loved the opening song, Seasons of Love, from the musical Rent since the first time I heard it! During a numeracy Masters of Education course we were tasked with finding examples of numeracy and innumeracy. I thought of this song and its mathematical implications. Here are the lyrics and my analysis from my favourite Broadway version:

[see Broadway version:


525 600 minutes
525 000 moments, oh dear
525 600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In 525 600 minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love

Seasons of love (love)
Seasons of love (love)

525 600 minutes
525 000 journeys to plan
525 600 minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned or the way that she died

It’s time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(You know that love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)

Seasons of love
Seasons of love
(Measure your life, measure your life in love)

By Daniel Noonan


Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Read more:


Seasons of Love from Rent Analysis by Fred Harwood

First it is good to note that they describe the 525 600 correctly (without the ‘and’). It is accurate if we ignore the additional 1440 minutes that occur during a leap year once every four years. 24 hrs x 60 min/hr x 365 dy/yr = 525 600 min/yr. Since 75% of the time this is correct, we will allow the poetic license of the song to make this claim. Likewise the second line of “525 000 moments, oh dear” to also be an approximation for the main part of the size of this number being very large with the 600 being only 600/525 000 x 100 or 0.11 % off.

“In daylights,” seems like a strange measure since it refers to when the sun is up and is 365, 75% of the time. It could refer to when you are not sleeping since this is when you are doing something although I have solved many problems subconsciously while sleeping.

“in sunsets” makes us pause to consider how often we attend to the actual setting of the sun and how often we actually are in a position to observe it. Rainy seasons and winters with it being dark when we leave our classes, have a lower frequency than the summer with better weather and longer periods of activity outdoors. Since re-listening to this song, I observed two sunsets per week during this spring season. This might make a good average for the year with less during November to February and more from June to September. If sunsets are metaphors for moments when we pause to wonder, I would increase this total to 5 times per week making a year between 100 and 250 times

“In midnights,” could be metaphorical to those quiet times when the world sleeps but we do not or it could be literally the times when we are still awake. This has greatly reduced since retirement to 3 to 4 times a week making it 150 – 200 times.

“in cups of coffee” would be 0 if it meant ones I have consumed, or 20 to 300 if it refers to my making/buying for friends. (The upper limit occurs when I am a camp cook for 8 to 11 days and make many pots a day.) This could also be metaphorical for time spent relaxing, gathering thoughts or talking with friends.

“In inches,” seems much more like a Fermi question. Does it refer to the actual distance we personally cover in a year? I can gain an estimate on the amount driven in a year as my vehicle passed the six year mark at 84 000 km. There were times when my wife drove without me but these will be roughly balanced by the times I was driven by someone else or was on transit. 84 000/6 = 14 000 km x 1 000 m/km x 100 cm/m = 14 billion centimetres. 14 x 109 ÷ 2.54 cm/in ~ 551 000 000 inches a year. If I owned a ‘fit bit’ to track my steps I could make a better estimate on physical steps. The goal of 10 000 steps a day would give an ideal of 10 000 steps x 30 inches/step x 365 days/yr as 109 500 000 inches per year. If we combined these two, I would have 660 000 000 inches per year.

“in miles,” is likely metaphorical for taking trips, going somewhere out of the usual, or perhaps in the drudgery of commuting. I am grateful to have had 37 years of less than 15 minutes of commuting a day. I am not a big traveller so would not be wracking up air miles. A flight this year and a cruise ship will increase my years total significantly.

“in laughter,” would be a fun measure to attend to. Are they moments when I actually laugh out loud or is smiling okay? For me personally, it would be more of the times I make others smile/laugh as I attend to this often in a day. Joyous times speed by as ‘time flies when we are having fun’.

“in strife”, time seems to move more slowly when under pressure. This would be a depressing measure, but for me, would be a smallish number compared to many other measures like joy. Other depressing measures could be ‘in wasted moments’ or TV watching, solitaire/video game playing.

“In 525 600 minutes” seems like enough time to get things done doesn’t it? But we know there is never enough time.

“How do you measure, a year in the life? IN LOVE!” This is the meaningful measure since love makes the world a better place and gives value to lives and hope for the future. Choosing a measure in love would flow from what your love language is. A look, a touch, a hug, sweet words, thoughtful acts, It also would need to be defined over whether it is the giving of or the receiving of love or both. Should the various measures be weighted? Women might say no, men likely yes due to their dispositions. Research shows that a man might think a dozen long stem red roses would count 12 times what a single red rose would mean. A women sees them as the same expression of love. My wife would prefer one since she doesn’t like to ‘kill’ other things for her pleasure so these could not be universally consistent measures. Like the old king’s foot or forearm changing every time the king died. Measuring our lives by how we love and who loves us is very good for getting our eyes off of ourselves. Healthy relationships do not benefit by ‘keeping score’ on our expressions of love so I would counsel not attaching measures to love but to make loving as essential and automatic as breathing.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2: 3-4




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