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Innumeracy Paperback – Sep 1 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Adult; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809058405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809058402
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 68 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #17,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
Two aristocrats are out horseback riding and one challenges the other to see which can come up with the larger number. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Boyle on July 23 2003
Format: Paperback
Not so much a review as a comment on a glaring error. On p. 86 of my edition, Paulos asks us to envision Myrtle, a girl with one sibling (either a brother or sister). He asks �eWhat is the conditional probability that Myrtle�fs sibling is a brother?�f and concludes it must be 2/3, since there are four equally likely possibilities for the breakdown in siblings: BB, BG, GB and GG. (B= boy, G= girl). BB doesn�ft apply here, and in 2 of the 3 remaining cases there is a brother.
So in other words, whenever anyone tells you they have a sibling, in the absence of any other information, you can conclude that the sibling is twice as likely to be of the opposite sex to the speaker, than of the same sex. Huh?! Sure, math sometimes provides some interesting counterintuitive results, but I mean come on! Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!
What Paulos apparently fails to realize is that the breakdown of possible siblings is actually BG, GB, G1G2 and G2G1. Or put into humanspeak, �gMyrtle can have an older brother, younger brother, older sister, or younger sister.�h So of course, the conditional probability that Myrtle�fs sibling is a brother is 1/2, just what you�fd expect.
Sort of flabbergasting that the author of Innumeracy could be so innumerate himself!
Addendum-- �g...The correct answer is, of course, 1/2.�h (John Allen Paulos)
After posting this comment, a subsequent reader comment averred that the Myrtle problem in _Innumeracy_ was given correctly, and that the problem is �esensitive to phrasing�f. This comment is incorrect. The problem as given in the book, is in fact, erroneous, as I stated. I think I can clear this issue up once and for all.
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By Stanley T Chow on April 4 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book talks about numeracy and I think it is important.

Many problems in the world are caused by people not understand what number mean (and the book is packed with examples). I want to see this as part of high school math instead of the trig and algebra stuff (and I am a mathematician by training).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a good book about mathematic and the importance of understanding numbers in everyday life. However, I'm afraid that after reading the book I find it difficult to remember a take home message, because the examples given for statistics need a few read to fully grasp them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nadyne Richmond on March 8 2004
Format: Paperback
The problem that resulted in this book is far-reaching: the public simply doesn't understand mathematics. Statistics, ranging from a 10%-off sale to the sort found in opinion polls, are unfathomable to the general populace. Probability, especially in the context of gambling, is understood by only a scant handful of people. The list of misunderstood mathematics is nearly endless.
In the first few chapters of the book, Paulos describes various issues that the innumerate (that is, those who don't understand numbers and math) often have issues understanding. He describes the issue to a reasonable level of detail, then derives answers for them. Don't let the use of the word 'derive' scare you off: the answers are readable and readily understandable to a general audience. In some cases, if you're really rusty, you might need to read them a second time to grasp the solution.
Later chapters, however, are not written for the innumerate. They are attempts to convince the reader that mathematical education needs to be improved. I think that everyone agrees that education should be improved, but he offers suggestions that are impractical or nonsensical.
Ultimately, the problem of this book is a lack of focus. Paulos could have written either a book that tackles basic mathematical issues that the general public doesn't understand, or he could have written a book that describes the consequences of innumeracy. He tried to do both, and stuffed both topics into a single slim volume. In doing so, he shortchanges both audiences. The result is a book that is good, but does not fully address the needs of anyone.
If you find yourself uncomfortable with mathematics, pick up a copy of this book and read up to chapter five. If you are comfortable with mathematics and are looking for fodder to prove the point that improving mathematical knowledge at any level is productive, this book will not serve your purpose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Denis Benchimol Minev on April 3 2004
Format: Paperback
In this short book, Paulos does an outstanding job of pointing out what lack of number intimacy can do to a person. The anecdotes are outstanding, especially the ones on large numbers and on probability. For example, he shows how one is fooled by probability: If we have 23 people in a room, what is the probability that two of them have the same birthday? 50%!! Very conterintuitive.
The author also tries to understand why it is almost considered acceptable for a person to admit that one is "bad with numbers", while it not being ok to be "bad with words". The realm of psychology is not his forte, but the ideas he points to are interesting.
Overall, this is an easy to read book, much easier even to one literate with numbers. I was done with it in 3 hours, and was left wanting more, so much so that I am now buying some more of his works. If they are half as good as Innumeracy, then they will be good enough.
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