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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences
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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  3,172 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
Dozens of examples in innumeracy show us how it affects not only personal economics and travel plans, but explains mis-chosen mates, inappropriate drug-testing, and the allure of pseudo-science.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 18th 2001 by Hill and Wang (first published 1988)
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Mar 29, 2008 Jerzy rated it liked it
Shelves: math
Most of the book is a collection of examples commonly seen in other pop math books: how a particular gambling game or con trick lets the house win most of the time; tricky things about Bayes' Theorem and Simpson's Paradox; how raising the price by 40% and then lowering the new price by 40% does not give you back the original price; the difference between statistical correlation and causation; etc.

I hoped the book would be an in-depth look at where innumeracy stems from and how to prevent it. The
Jul 09, 2012 Lisa rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
On page 94, Paulos bemoans the fact that people attribute combination to causation: "...when people reason that if X cures Y, then lack of X must cause Y."

But just a few pages later, on 108, he states: "In short, there is an obvious connection between innumeracy and the poor mathematical education received by so many people. [...] Still, it's not the whole story, since there are many quite numerate people who have had little formal schooling."

For those who are only as bright (or dim) as Paulos
Mar 18, 2015 blakeR rated it it was ok
Let's say there was a <1% chance that I would buy an unknown book after stumbling randomly upon it on a bargain shelf (something I haven't done in almost a decade after perusing dozens of such shelves in that time), and then a 30% chance that I would then like that book (giving myself some credit for taste while taking into account the vast quantities of extant crap). Those are two dependent scenarios, meaning I'd have to multiply them to get the likelihood that I ever might have liked this b ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Easy book to read that addresses mathematical illiteracy or "Inumeracy." Paulos offers persuasive arguments for increasing math literacy with fun anecdotes & fascinating statistics.
Oct 04, 2014 Jonathan rated it liked it
Shelves: library
An easy little read about mathematical illiteracy.

The author, it is eventually revealed, was a mathematical prodigy as a child, and still takes immense pleasure in doing things like deftly computing the volume of all the blood in the world in terms of how deep it would fill Central Park, or how fast human hair grows in miles per hour. He seems genuinely surprised that there might be people for whom these questions are not interesting.

He also has some ideas for improving the state of mathematica
Sep 02, 2014 TheF7Pawn rated it it was ok
Never judge a book by its cover or, in this case, by its title. The author purports to explain numerical illiteracy ("innumeracy") and the consequences of it. However, he skates from there to explaining formal logic, probability theory, estimations, critiques of psuedo-science, and then to the reasons why so many people just don't like math. Although his points are valid, and at times slyly humorous, the tone is at times condescending and and self-pitying. I wanted to like this book but the open ...more
Sep 23, 2015 J.M. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: You
Quick, essential reading.

While it hasn't completely killed my interest in coincidences, it tried valiantly to do so. The author's anger at the popularity of pseudosciences (astrology, mediums, fortune-telling, etc.) comes across pretty clearly, and it's hard not to agree with him. In fact... it's impossible to disagree with him in certain sections, since he's using cold, hard mathematics. (He'd hate that I used the adjective 'cold,' there...)

I don't have much more to say beyond the fact that thi
Jul 22, 2016 Roman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Моя 2 книжка на англійській яку прочитав повністю.
Вердикт - непогано. Деякі глави були дуже цікавими і змусили здивувати і згадати те, що знав. Інші - не такі цікаві, бо я факти з них знаю, проте написані відмінно. Читається легко.
Рекомендується до прочитання всім, особливо тим, хто все життя жаліється на математику.
Manolo Almagro
Jul 16, 2013 Manolo Almagro rated it liked it
El libro es un compendio de hechos que ya aparecen en otras obras del estilo (el clásico de "has respirado el mismo aire que un personaje histórico", y numerosos juegos de azar explicados). No está mal para leer si no se tiene mucho que hacer, nada más.

Durante todo el libro persiste la sensación de que el autor no pretende llegar a ningún punto en especial. La exposición es clara, eso sí; pero el hecho de que el libro sea tan generalista y no se profundice en ningún tema, teniendo todo el rato l
Innumeracy is a great book for the era of Ebola panic (even if it is quite dated). Paulos expounds on mathematical concepts as they relate to everyday life - the true nature of particular risks, gambling chances, and understanding extremely large and small numbers. There are a lot of mathematical puzzles (always fun) and real-world examples of the (mis)application of seemingly abstract concepts. There's also some overlap with Thinking, Fast and Slow regarding cognitive blocks to thinking mathema ...more
Charles Eliot
Jan 18, 2015 Charles Eliot rated it it was ok
In "Innumeracy", John Allen Paulos argues that the level of mathematical illiteracy in the United States is shocking and unacceptable, that innumeracy has real and pernicious negative effects, and that it is promoted by poor teaching.

It's a pity: I share Paulos's love for mathematics, and I agree with the message of "Innumeracy", but I find his approach glib and pompous. At one point he says he finds it hard to write at length, preferring brevity and concision. That's all well and good, but it c
Ken Ransom
Mar 15, 2015 Ken Ransom rated it it was ok
Reading Innumeracy is probably most fun for people who already understand 95% of the math Paulos uses. Plus a lot of the examples aren't from current events despite what the back cover says.

I bet a lot of his stated intended audience--innumerates--aren't making it past the first chapter, let alone getting all the way to the end. And the book is only 135 pages.

But if the reader will stick with it, or maybe skip over sections not understood, it's worth the time spent reading. Hey, it's only 135 p
May 11, 2009 Joel rated it it was amazing
This book speaks for itself. I mean, people should understand mathematics beyond, like, knowing how many shoes they need for how many feet they have.
Jun 20, 2013 Marcin rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, 2b-2bs
Do you know the old IT/electronics saying that "only intelligent one understand that 1+1 is equal to 10"? Well you might be forgiven for not knowing binary but the problem of illiteracy and especially mathematical type of it is widespread and frankly speaking quite disturbing. Sure, what would a philosophy student need trigonometric functions or logarithmic smoothing of some multi-variable function for you ask yourself and you might be right, yet the problem persists with even more extreme cases ...more
Yang Ming Wen
"Why do even well-educated people understand so little about mathematics?", exclaimed the author in the book's introduction. But after some pounding on the question, one could realize that such claim can hardly be valid by definition. After all, how can someone be regarded as "well-educated" if he has not be learned some of the fundamental mathematical principles presented in the book? Thus the question could be reiterated as:

"Why do even well-educated people who understand mathematics, demonstr
jiawei Ong
Feb 24, 2013 jiawei Ong rated it it was amazing
Until I came in contact with this book, I never knew I could be termed as a “numerate.” Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy And Its Consequences, written by John Allen Paulos, had not only taught me a new vocabulary word but had also shown me an unappealing truth, innumeracy. Innumeracy, “the inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance,” was the overlooked issue John Allen Paulos presented to me. Personally, I was rejoiced to be able to understand myself bett ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Suha rated it really liked it
An interesting, entertaining, as well as informative book. I don't generally read books about mathematics and the like, but the title of the book was an instant attention-grabber.
There's nothing quite like reading a book for which you are the target audience, because I am indeed, innumerate. As predicted by the author, I'm the kind of person who, when presented with an enamoring mathematical technique, instantly wonders whether or not this would be necessary to know for the quiz.
To me, and man
Oct 18, 2009 Robert rated it liked it
Overall, Innumeracy is a very good book addressing a very important topic, mathematical illiteracy and its consequences. As a professional statistician, I'm not the ideal person to review this book. I want to nitpick at how Paulos expresses certain statistical concepts and challenge nuances in his logic in other sections. I want to complain about how little math and how few numbers the book contains. But if I step back and acknowledge the book was not written for me, I can see that Innumeracy co ...more
Aug 03, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
This was a very quick read, which is what I was looking for, on a topic that more people should read. In fact, that's the whole point of the book. Paulos provides his case for why the 'innumerate,' that is people who are not mathematically literate in basic principles of probability, statistics, large numbers, etc., should work to become more comfortable with math. He makes a great case for how being innumerate is a detriment in everyday life, and provides easy to understand examples as lessons. ...more
Dan Richter
Jun 23, 2016 Dan Richter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dan by: The Guardian
Shelves: mathematik
Paulos betont, wie wichtig es ist, ein Gefühl für Wahrscheinlichkeiten zu entwickeln, was natürlich nur funktioniert, wenn man sich mit dem Instrumentarium einigermaßen auskennt. Das Buch von 1990 scheint mir immer noch sehr aktuell, zumindest für Deutschland. Die meisten Schüler begegnen der Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung und dem Umgang mit sehr großen und sehr kleinen Zahlen erst sehr spät – in der 11. oder 12. Klasse. Wenn man davon ausgeht, dass nicht alle Fächer beliebig ausgedehnt werden könn ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Mari rated it liked it
The author has a hidden agenda, satirically bringing up Reagan in the case of him believing he had the absolute power in making decisions in comparision to the millions of Americans who believe in astrological readings as fact. There is also mention of the case regarding Clever Hans and his horse where it was believed that the horse could count the number of a dice that his trainer threw on the floor, but was actually lead by a gesture his trainer would make. Although I believed the horse would ...more
Apr 05, 2010 Jack rated it really liked it
"The same people who cringe when words such as `imply' and `infer' are confused react without a trace of embarrassment to even the most egregious numerical solecisms." (p. 3)

"Confronted with these large numbers and with the correspondingly small probabilities associated with them, the innumerate inevitably respond with the non sequitor, `Yes, but what if you're that one,' and then nod knowingly, as if they've demolished your argument [about still consequential differences in probability:] with t
Sep 01, 2010 Parksy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

Very easy read on how the general public just doesn't get numbers and math.
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
Michael Quinn
Jun 21, 2013 Michael Quinn rated it really liked it
Innumeracy is a strong general overview of basic mathematical principals for any person interested in the subject. It would also be nice reading for any math student, barring the section on pedagogy, which isn't so relevant.

The book's biggest strength is it's perspective. By writing from the position of someone dismayed by a the public's lack of mathematical knowledge, Paulos is able to engage the reader in a polemic against ignorance. The humor gives the reader a sense of "insider baseball," s
Oct 16, 2007 Russell rated it really liked it

This book is along the same lines as “What the Numbers Say”, although it wasn’t as engaging. And since “What the Numbers Say” was written after this one, they did build off it, expanding on several topics Paulos touched upon.

Still, Paulos does a fantastic job driving home the need to shake off the shackles of innumeracy and become a numerate society again.

I really enjoyed his discussions of various ways being numerate helps one think clearly and logically and understand the world around us. He i
Nicholas Taddeo
Feb 01, 2016 Nicholas Taddeo rated it it was amazing
I've read a few books similar to this one and this has been my favorite so far. It doesn't get too deep into complex mathematics and does a good job of explaining the fallacies people fall for when they can't effectively deal with numbers. For some reason, adults are completely comfortable telling peers that they can't think mathematically but would never admit illiteracy. A culture that doesn't hold a fluency with numbers and math in high regard is one that is likely to be fooled or taken advan ...more
Mar 07, 2016 Pete rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Innumeracy (1988) by John Allen Paulos is a book that laments the lack of math general knowledge in society.

The book looks at how people lack general knowledge about the big numbers about populations and so on and that people do not have the math ability to reason about many probabilities and many numbers in general. Paulos spends quite a lot of time describing how people are not taught to think in terms of magnitudes.

Paulos points out that "I'm terrible at math and or not interested in it" is
Jun 09, 2012 Vickie rated it really liked it
Some of the examples are a little out of date (Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, for instance...) but I'm finding it very well written and accessible. I would consider myself numerically literate (numerate) but I have not been employing my math knowledge on a daily or professional basis. As such, I don't agree that conceptualizing scientific notation is easier than a number written verbally or in longhand (say, 1,000,000,000,000 versus 1 trillion versus 1.0 x 10^12) but I do believe it's usef ...more
Chris Dudding
Mar 11, 2014 Chris Dudding rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This was my second or third time through this small yet immensely powerful book. This should be required reading for just about anyone, high-school and college on up. It's not about math so much as it is about how we (often erroneously) think about numbers in our everyday lives. If everyone read and absorbed this material, much sensational media about perceived dangers (from sharks, vaccines, GMOs, and so forth) would be met by a much more skeptical audience, one primed to ask substantive questi ...more
Mohamad Bourji
Jun 13, 2015 Mohamad Bourji rated it really liked it
This book could easily be a 500 page book. Written by a mathematician, it's up to the point.

It's incredible how much we rely on mathematics in our daily lives yet a lot of us have little sense of it. If you want to get a better understanding of the world you can't afford ignoring mathematics, regardless what your occupation is. Reading this book will not make you numerate, but it will likely convince you why it's important to be one.

We talk probability everyday. I can hardly watch a game of ba
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Goodreads Librari...: ACE for "El hombre anumérico" 2 10 Aug 01, 2014 11:11AM  
Atheists and Skep...: Innumeracy 6 27 May 13, 2013 05:33PM  
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