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Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In the wrong hands, math can be deadly. Even the simplest numbers can become powerful forces when manipulated by politicians or the media, but in the case of the law, your libertyand your lifecan depend on the right calculation.

In Math on Trial, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez describe ten trials spanning from the nineteenth century to today, in which
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Basic Books
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  240 ratings  ·  26 reviews


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Kirsty Darbyshire
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
As a mathematician I really enjoyed reading most of this book. I'm someone who jumps up and down and gets annoyed when I notice statistics being misused in the news and especially in legally binding situations: typically when something like "1 in x million" is used to mean "so unlikely that it couldn't happen" which it certainly doesn't mean[*]. I'm not a statistician though and I'm sure plenty of number-misuse gets past me too, and I was pleased to read this and add a few more tools to my ...more
Abigail Tarttelin
This review was originally posted on the Huffington Post - I am not paid for any comments and all opinions are my own! Math On Trial is a study of several criminal cases where flaws in mathematical and statistical calculations and their analysis led to incorrect verdicts of guilt or innocence. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book!

This may surprise some to note, but I was good with numbers in school, gaining an A* in both Statistics and Mathematics at GCSE level. That, however, is where
...more
Farhana
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This is good but not overwhelmingly good! It's kind of entertaining but goes a bit faster both on the crime stories and corresponding mathematical errors. And the cases are presented very shortly. So, the suspense, thrill, and revelations are jumbled together within a limited space that they don't get enough time to hold on to their effects. At least the topic is interesting. How statistics get exploited in media or in politics is quite known but how they get exploited in criminal investigations ...more
Ray
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
So this book is basically chasing after bad math...with more bad math.

NOTE: This review contains a trigger warning due to material I've decided to keep in order to make a point about introducing personal bias into statistical math, particularly when, as the book's tag line says, "when math becomes a matter of life and death, you better check your sums."

Now this is pretty obviously a book about math (well not quite, which should be evident even from its title to say the least of its cover design
...more
Mark Flowers
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I really liked this for about 100 pages, and then it kind of fell off a cliff, for two reasons: 1) just based on the nature of how math is used in court, it got really repetitive--it's basically just about understanding probabilities, over and over, 2) the last two chapters were weirdly out of context--one on Charles Ponzi, which has to do with math but not court, and one on the Dreyfus Affair which has to do with court, but not (or very very little) to do with math. Interesting stories, both, ...more
Lenore Riegel
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Crime buff? Like your news ripped from the headlines?
Math buff? Enjoy testing your mind against experts?
Statistics buff? Know how to use them to your advantage?
History buff? Enjoy the inside story behind major events?
Or does Handwriting Analysis intrigue you?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you should read Math on Trial.
If you answered yes to more than one - what are you waiting for?
John J. Camilleri
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall the book was enjoyable to read, although the majority of it goes into explaining the background story in each case rather than the mathematical mistake themselves. Each chapter reads like you're watching some show on Investigation Discovery. The actual math involved is not complicated, and I was vaguely disappointed that the book covers the same handful of mistakes that occur in different guises.
Shazzt
May 15, 2013 added it
The book lost its focus on maths towards the end but it was fascinating to see how mathematics had been used (or more accurately, misused) in criminal trials. The cases were interesting, some well known, others less so, and it was rather depressing to see how poorly the justice system works in many cases. Not a heavy read and no prior maths knowledge required.
Batgirl13
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, mystery
Good combo of court cases, forensic science, and statistics. It was a little long in parts but a good introduction to some of the problems math can pose in the wrong hands, or even the right misguided hands. Should be required reading for statistics and forensic scientists.
Kristian
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good
Megan Hill
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
You have to have a baseline understanding of probability to understand this book. Pretty thought-provoking in terms of DNA evidence.
Gail Jones
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book! Interesting, well-written and easily understood by the non-mathematician like me! It certainly raises questions about the use of probability and statistics in criminal trials.
Bob Lewis
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mathematical training for legal professionals is, unfortunately, extremely limited. While there certainly are lawyers who have pursued their mathematical education, it's entirely possible to become a practicing lawyer after taking only a single required math course during undergraduate study. Frankly, this is insufficient and it's a detriment to the profession. This book chronicles the disastrous results of this lack of quantitative training through a handful of case studies in which mathematics ...more
Fabbi
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A really fascinating book. Couldnt put it down. ...more
Nicole
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Makes me ever more convinced that American courts get it wrong.
Rachel Willis
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written for laypeople, a readable examination of the way statistics and mathematics are used and abused in the courtroom.
Doris
Apr 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I picked up Math On Trial (from the library as is my habit) because it was mentioned in a couple of footnotes in University of Wisconsin-Madison mathematics professor Jordan Ellenberg's How Not To Be Wrong which I had just finished reading. You won't find the title or the authors listed in his index however ... apparently footnotes aren't indexed.

Math on Trial scrutinizes 10 cases where statistics were misunderstood or misused in courts of law. A Cold Hit Analysis case had the prosecution's
...more
Deborah
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have a love-hate relationship with statistics and probability that is subject to alteration pending how well I do on my final exam next week. :-) Still, the concepts and applications are intriguing and the law and math combine for a read that is hard to put down. (I *should* have been studying!) This book is the horrifying recount of people wrongly convicted by bad math, as well as an interesting lesson in criminal history and a reasoned call for standardized applications similar to those ...more
Renato Bakanovas
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: direito
Um livro interessante sobre o uso da matemática em julgamentos de casos criminais. O ponto positivo, pra mim, foi a descrição detalhada de cada caso, assim como as introduções sobre os princípios matemáticos no início de cada capítulo.

Muito boa a abordagem da autora com relação ao Caso Dreyfus, que enseja bastante polêmica, mas foi muito bem desenvolvido e trabalhado.
Will
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Will by: 160
Rather polemical view of forensic mathematics through various causes celebres. It leaves the impression that there is something inherently wrong with forensic mathematics. But my reading is that the fault lies with prosecutors who do not know what they are doing, pulling "probabilities" out of the air.
Chandanathil Geevan
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent work. Need some knowledge of mathematics and statistics to enjoy it well.
Science For The People
Featured on Science for the People show #227 on August 22, 2013, during an interview with author Leila Schneps. http://www.scienceforthepeople.ca/epi...
Katie
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Gets a little redundant.m the first cases are engrossing, but it loses steam.
Donna Luu
Aug 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This is right up my alley, math and law. All of the studies were interesting examples of math gone awry; it was too bad that math couldn't correct the errors.
Sheldon Weinman
rated it really liked it
Apr 06, 2017
Juan Garutti
rated it really liked it
Nov 30, 2014
Simon Brock
rated it really liked it
Feb 28, 2017
Isaac Pineda
rated it it was ok
Sep 27, 2015
Kristen Kilpo
rated it liked it
Aug 12, 2013
Sunny Chen
rated it really liked it
Jan 26, 2017
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