Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences Paperback – Aug 18 2001
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This is the book that made "innumeracy" a household word, at least in some households. Paulos admits that "at least part of the motivation for any book is anger, and this book is no exception. I'm distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems to indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens."
But that is not all that drives him. The difference between our pretensions and reality is absurd and humorous, and the numerate can see this better than those who don't speak math. "I think there's something of the divine in these feelings of our absurdity, and they should be cherished, not avoided."
Paulos is not entirely successful at balancing anger and absurdity, but he tries. His diatribes against astrology, bad math education, Freud, and willful ignorance are leavened with jokes, mathematical or the sort (he claims) favored by the numerate.
It remains to be seen if Innumeracy will indeed be able, as Hofstadter hoped, to "help launch a revolution in math education that would do for innumeracy what Sabin and Salk did for polio"--but many of the improvements Paulos suggested have come to pass within 10 years. Only time will tell if the generation raised on these new principles is more resistant to innumeracy--and need only worry about being incomputable. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Our society would be unimaginably different if the average person truly understood the ideas in this marvelous and important book.” ―Douglas Hofstadter
“[An] elegant ... Survival Manual ... Brief, witty and full of practical applications.” ―Stefan Kanfer, TimeSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I was attracted to this book because of the all-too-evident decline in critical thinking. While the book is ostensibly concerned with "mathematical illiteracy", the issue... Read morePublished 27 days ago by DDolsen
Short, clear, concise, applied. This is a great book on numeracy, statistical and risk literacy. Perfect complement to Gigerenzer's Risk Savy.Published 13 months ago by Thomas Speidel
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... Read more
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... Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2013 by Dom
Delighted by the latest Paulos' book (a mathematician plays the stock market) I was really interested in reading more of his books. Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Amazon Customer
Innumerates in the press and politics threaten reasonable trade-offs because of wrong perception about the real risks of different actions or inactions. Read morePublished on June 3 2004 by Øystein Sjølie
OK.. I'm a theatre major so it doesn't take to much for me to be impressed by numeric intelligence. But this is a good starting point to thinking of the "facts" of... Read morePublished on April 15 2004 by William Schubert
paulos is full of himself. after a couple of pages, i got tired of reading his jibberish which amounted to nothing more than him showing off his vocabulary. Read morePublished on March 24 2004 by dakbrar
This is a great book, i bought it in Bali airport, and enjoy it very much. I even bought several other books by Paulo: BEYOND NUMERACY which deals with more "numbers n... Read morePublished on Dec 28 2003 by T SANTOSO