The recent news of proposed acquisitions and 2010 budgets contain some large, large numbers. We're becoming accustomed to tens of billions of dollars in planned transaction values. This week, we read that Schlumberger Ltd. now plans to acquire Smith International Inc. for US $11 billion ($11,000,000,000), and India's Reliance Industries Ltd. raised its offer for LyondellBasell Industries AF to $14.5 billion ($14,500,000,000). Barclays Capital said in December that oil and gas industry spending will rise 11% this year to $439 billion ($439,000,000,000), anchored by 2010 budgets at Royal Dutch Shell ($28 billion), Chevron Corp. ($21.6 billion), BP PLC ($20 billion), and Total SA ($18 billion). In terms of market capitalization, ExxonMobil Corp. leads the major integrated oil & gas companies with $309.1 billion, followed by PetroChina Co. Ltd. ($203.5 billion), BP ($169.6 billion), Shell ($164 billion), Chevron ($146.4 billion), and Total ($129.6 billion). Among the oilfield equipment and services companies, Schlumberger leads with $73.7 billion market capitalization, followed by Halliburton Co. ($28 billion), National Oilwell Varco Inc. ($18.6 billion), Baker Hughes ($15 billion), and Weatherford International Ltd. ($12.3 billion). However, China's CNOOC Ltd., leads the industry with $7.013 trillion market capitalization. CNOOC raised its 2010 capital budget to $7.93 billion, planning to spend 29.5% more than it did in 2009, but it's still barely 25% of front-runner Shell's 2010 budget. These long strings of zeros represent sums that dwarf the personal budgets of almost all workers by a vast margin. Do we appreciate and will the next generation entering the workforce properly comprehend numbers at this scale? Many high schools offer classes in basic economic theory, business priniciples, and perhaps personal budgeting, but are today's 18-year olds equipped to understand-and vote-on issues* involving trillions? *According to the US national debt clock, the US deficit stands at $12 trillion and has increased an average of $3.87 billion daily since Sept. 28, 2007.