What is Your Lottery Number?

As parents prepare to rank their choices of New York City schools for next year, they will notice a new piece of information on their child’s profile in MySchools: their lottery number. It’s a 32-character code that will tell them where their student stands in the Byzantine process of school admissions and is an important factor in whether their child is likely to gain admittance to their top choice schools.

The lottery number is generated by a computer software program operated by the NYC Department of Education, which generates sequences of numbers using a Random Number Generator (RNG). RNGs are designed to produce a random set of numbers without any discernable patterns or biases. The DOE originally refused to disclose the lottery numbers, but this year the Department has decided to release them before parents submit their rankings of schools.

Some numbers seem to be hotter or colder than others. This is simply a result of the fact that there are more combinations of numbers than there are ways to combine them. As a result, some numbers will appear more often than others. But that doesn’t mean that the results are “rigged” – there is no systematic way to fix the lottery drawing, so long as the balls used in the draw are not weighted differently or otherwise adjusted.

If you want to get a better feel for what your lottery number means, try picking a random number in your local lotto game and comparing it to the ones that are drawn most frequently. You can find a table here that translates the first two characters of each lottery number into percentiles.