Tell Your Students: You Can Find True Love With Algorithms and Big Data


In this Wired article, we learn the story of mathematician Chris McKinlay who hacked OKCupid, an online dating site, to find the girl of his dreams while working on his doctoral dissertation on large-scale data processing. McKinlay’s romantic life was stalled until he determined to use Python scripts to analyze thousands and thousands of survey items and responses—completed by OKCupid members about their personal likes and dislikes—to help him find more women with whom he could be compatible. Spoiler alert: It worked!

In related news, Christian Rudder, one of the OKCupid founders, posted a TEDEd Original video lesson explaining what algorithms are, their pervasiveness in everyday life and how the OKCupid team developed an algorithm to help people like Chris McKinlay find a Valentine.


If you are not familiar with TEDEd, it is the newest initiative of the popular nonprofit, TED (short for technology, entertainment, and design) devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” The TEDEd platform offers a library of thoughtfully curated educational videos and lessons many of which are the product of collaborations between acclaimed educators and animators. Additionally, the platform also allows site visitors to use any educational video to easily create a customized lesson around that video. Users can then distribute TEDEd lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact at the classroom or student level. This platform is also the home to TEDEd Clubs, a new school-based program that supports students in discussing, pursuing and presenting their novel ideas in the form of short TED-style talks. There are a number of lessons on TEDEd that you might find beneficial for your classroom including the following series:

  • Math in Real Life
  • Visualizing Data
  • Cyber-Influence & Power
  • Animation Basics

Speaking of ideas worth spreading, remember to tell your students that the benefits of studying computer science are virtually limitless. Indeed, when they leave high school and college behind to pursue life in the “real world”, they can reflect fondly on the lessons they learned in their CSP and ECS courses on algorithms and big data—to find true love.

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