Innumeracy : Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

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Why do even well-educated people often understand so little about maths - or take a perverse pride in not being a 'numbers person'? In his now-classic book Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos answers questions such as: Why is following the stock market exactly like flipping a coin? How big is a trillion? How fast does human hair grow in mph? Can you calculate the chances that a party includes two people who have the same birthday? Paulos shows us that by arming yourself with some simple maths, you don't have to let numbers get the better of more

Product details

  • Paperback | 160 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 9mm | 123g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0140291202
  • 9780140291209
  • 101,183

About John Allen Paulos

John Allen Paulos is professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is author of several books, including the bestseller Innumeracy which was a New York Times bestseller for 18 weeks and A Mathematician Plays the Market. In 2003, Paulos won the American Association for the Advancement of Science award for promoting public understanding of more

Review Text

This entertaining, enlightening, and instructive book from Paulos (Mathematics/ Temple Univ.; Mathematics and Humor, I Think Therefore I Laugh) explores the widespread unfamiliarity with basic mathematical concepts; discussing probability theory, Paulos demonstrates the impact of this condition. With a spiky sense of humor and an impressive ability to make tough ideas accessible, Paulos delineates the "innumeracy" problem. Many, perhaps most, adults do not understand the basic tools of mathematics: big numbers intimidate people, and concepts thousands of years old are considered abstruse. Paulos demonstrates how probability theory works, and points to the sloppy thinking that results from misunderstanding it ("Jerry and I aren't going to Europe, what with all the terrorists"), including widespread acceptance of pseudoscience. Not only does Paulos make such concepts as conditional probability understandable to the layman, but his demonstrations include statements such as: "To answer this, assume that Reagan and Thatcher are placed in a large burlap bag." He proposes a logarithmic safety index for the media (like the Richter scale), so that the comparative dangers of, say, smoking and sky-diving may be immediately obvious, and he offers a concise introduction to the important and powerful conceptual tool, "Prisoner's Dilemma." A valiant (if quixotic) gesture against a particularly insidious ignorance - incisive, funny, and effective, delightful even to the innumerate. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

John Allen Paulos is the maths teacher I found twenty-five years too late -- Sean French Independent Innumeracy would improve the quality of thinking of virtually anyone Isaac Asimov Paulos provides much in this book that is thought-provoking and informative. Markets can sucker even a maths professor. At least he can explain why Financial Times Paulos mixes high mathematics with the kind of stories that make you laugh Daily Telegraph Taught me more about the handling of numbers in real life than a thousand hours of maths teaching -- Simon Jenkins The Times This elegant little survival manual is brief, witty and full of practical applications -- Stefan Kanfer Timeshow more