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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its…

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (1988)

by John Allen Paulos

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,766316,096 (3.8)35
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
The author writes of his concern for the innumerate society in which we live. People that can't balance a checkbook and don't find a problem with that are rather scary, since they have to make decisions that sometimes require mathematical proficiency.

All the while he cites numerous examples and ideas in probability and other things that people believe for stupid misinformed reasons. Mostly astrology and numerology and other things that make no sense.

All in all this book is shorter than I thought it would be. It is also very 80s, but the concerns apply even more now then they did 30 years ago. So many things we do require a passing knowledge of math, but sadly, many people are lacking in this department. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |
[Update on 9/20/15 Reread: upgrading to five stars and changing "Good" to "Excellent"] Excellent, brief intro to probability, common fallacies of statistical correlation, absurdities of astrology, numerology, and other pseudosciences. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
OK, maybe 1 1/2 stars. I didn't hate it. It just didn't do much for me.

Actually, I finished it, but it was just because the book was so short. I'm not going to count this one towards my goal for this year.

I might have liked this book better if I had read it when it was new. A lot of references and examples were dated 1988/1991.

But the real problem, to me, was that the author was trying to accomplish 2 incompatible purposes, while keeping the mathematics easy enough for the general reader.
1. Keeping things light and pleasant.
2. Arguing his view on various social (and sometimes political) issues.
Even when I agreed with his views, it just didn't come across as light and pleasant.

It didn't help that I was already aware of most of the pitfalls he discussed. I had encountered them in other contexts. So I wasn't learning much of anything.

I may toss the book in the trash. Or see if Half Price Books wants it. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
4 ILL but no CC
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Mr. Paulos is the sort of person who, when he hears that something or other is selling at a fraction of its normal cost, is likely to remark ''that the fraction is probably 4/3.'' He writes that this is often greeted by ''a blank stare.'' He takes it to be one of incomprehension, but a reader of ''Innumeracy'' may suspect behind the look an impulse to throttle Mr. Paulos. Still, there is so much of value in his book that one can easily restrain such an urge. He takes us a couple of steps closer to numeracy, and it is all in all an enlightening place to be.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Allen Paulosprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kousbroek, RudyAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Los, BettelouTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prinsen, ErikCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vala, KlausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0809058405, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Examines the nation's burgeoning inability to deal rationally with very large numbers, assesses the impact on government policymaking and everyday life, and shows what can be done about this.

» see all 3 descriptions

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