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How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
by
The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands
The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that ...more
The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that ...more
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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published
May 29th 2014
by Penguin Press
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Here's the deal. If you're a social scientist or a physical scientist (me) who works outside the world of controlled laboratory data, you have to make sense of the world with imperfect experiments. You often have limited data, you can't repeat your experiments, and the differences between your subject and control are sometimes very fuzzy. Yet you have to try to make some inferences even though imperfect data are all you have. How do you do that in an honest and careful way? That's what How Not T
...more
I so wanted to like this book.
It's a topic I enjoy. I flicked through the book and the author was saying things that I agree with. Jordan clearly knows what he is talking about. All the signs were good.
So why the 3 stars? Because the book is unfortunately quite dull. There are long sections where Jordan spends ages proving some mathematical point or other, but then he doesn't draw any conclusions from it.
He starts with a story about school kids not liking mathematics because they can't see the r ...more
It's a topic I enjoy. I flicked through the book and the author was saying things that I agree with. Jordan clearly knows what he is talking about. All the signs were good.
So why the 3 stars? Because the book is unfortunately quite dull. There are long sections where Jordan spends ages proving some mathematical point or other, but then he doesn't draw any conclusions from it.
He starts with a story about school kids not liking mathematics because they can't see the r ...more
This is a wonderful book about mathematics and its application to everyday life. Jordan Ellenberg shows that the certainty that people associate with math is often misplaced; some areas of math are devoted to uncertainty, and that's where things get very interesting.
Ellenberg starts the book with a beautiful example of application of mathematics, logic, and thinking out of the box. During World War II, a group of mathematicians working for the Statistical Research Group were given a problem by s ...more
Ellenberg starts the book with a beautiful example of application of mathematics, logic, and thinking out of the box. During World War II, a group of mathematicians working for the Statistical Research Group were given a problem by s ...more
I math for a living. I mathed, both amateurly and professionally, at school. I math quite a bit. And as a math teacher, I like reading "pop math" books that try to do for math what many science writers have done for science. So picking up How Not to Be Wrong was a no-brainer when I saw it on that bookstore shelf. I’ve read and enjoyed some of Jordan Ellenberg’s columns on Slate and elsewhere (some of them appear or are adapted as chapters of this book). And he doesn’t disappoint.
I should make on ...more
I should make on ...more
This book was an excellent guide to the many ways in which our intuitions and poorly understood statistical training can lead us astray. One of the areas that it covers is regression to the mean, a concept which pretty much everyone needs to be aware of, since a better awareness of its ubiquity would prevent a lot of errors. Among other things, this concept explains why a successful pilot study is likely to give worse results when rolled out, why a good performance is often followed by a worse p
...more
Mathematics is a piece of music the deeper you allow yourself to understand its lyrics you will understand the practicality of it in real life. It can be a dull and unimaginative concept that only deals with some of the already established formulas. It paved a way for people to live their life hassle-free.
It brings the practicality and scientific conclusion on any topic whether it's about calculation for about judging a person. With probability and numbers, it makes us our life comfortable.
The ...more
It brings the practicality and scientific conclusion on any topic whether it's about calculation for about judging a person. With probability and numbers, it makes us our life comfortable.
The ...more
Enjoyable, entry-level book, particularly recommended to any lover of applied maths who did not get prior significant exposure to the main concepts of statistics and probability calculus.
The author writes in a very engaging and conversational manner, and his enthusiasm for maths is quite contagious; I like how he manages to compellingly convey the message that math is a creative process, not a sterile, procedural slog.
While the book is designed to be understood by a wide audience, so it is neces ...more
The author writes in a very engaging and conversational manner, and his enthusiasm for maths is quite contagious; I like how he manages to compellingly convey the message that math is a creative process, not a sterile, procedural slog.
While the book is designed to be understood by a wide audience, so it is neces ...more
Where language and math meet is where my head explodes.
That's this book.
Fortunately, the author has a funny, down-to-earth style that keeps me going even when my eyes glaze over and start to roll back into my head. That has nothing to do with him; it's all me. He and I have a fundamental difference in wiring: he loves numbers and the things they can do. For him they sing. For me, they are instruments of torment and deceit.
Let me give you an example. Here's one from page 44 et seq., where he dem ...more
That's this book.
Fortunately, the author has a funny, down-to-earth style that keeps me going even when my eyes glaze over and start to roll back into my head. That has nothing to do with him; it's all me. He and I have a fundamental difference in wiring: he loves numbers and the things they can do. For him they sing. For me, they are instruments of torment and deceit.
Let me give you an example. Here's one from page 44 et seq., where he dem ...more
I am one of those fortunate individuals who cherishes and loves Mathematics, in all its forms. But, I know, a lot of people for whom the Maths is a dreaded specter.
Why is that so? Inevitably, this is a problem that arises from the way the subject has been taught. And this is what the book tries to dispel. This book takes us behind the numbers, equations, theories and abstruse concepts to show the practical applications of whatever we have been taught. Along the way, the history of these various ...more
Why is that so? Inevitably, this is a problem that arises from the way the subject has been taught. And this is what the book tries to dispel. This book takes us behind the numbers, equations, theories and abstruse concepts to show the practical applications of whatever we have been taught. Along the way, the history of these various ...more
Almost everything that we do these days has some sort of mathematical element to it, from analysis by companies that are looking for patterns, voting, the stock market and ways of winning the lottery.
Ellenberg does make some reasonable arguments; I particularly liked the explanations on the three way voting where the favoured guy can end up being eliminated purely because of the first past the post method, and the way that groups were able to exploit a badly designed lottery.
And most of the tim ...more
Ellenberg does make some reasonable arguments; I particularly liked the explanations on the three way voting where the favoured guy can end up being eliminated purely because of the first past the post method, and the way that groups were able to exploit a badly designed lottery.
And most of the tim ...more
Having come back to math in my late twenties, this book was comforting and gave me hope that learning the equations and complicated language would not be for nothing. It's also a lot of fun to read.
...more
Is math really twice removed from our lives? Nope.
The very incredibly incredible math story from a math child prodigy (in his day), now a professor (a sensible one! a rara avis!). Fun and readable and readily comprehensible tale making math closer and WAY cooler!
Q:
“Mathematics is pretty much the same. You may not be aiming for a mathematically oriented career. That’s fine—most people aren’t. But you can still do math. You probably already are doing math, even if you don’t call it that. Math is w ...more
The very incredibly incredible math story from a math child prodigy (in his day), now a professor (a sensible one! a rara avis!). Fun and readable and readily comprehensible tale making math closer and WAY cooler!
Q:
“Mathematics is pretty much the same. You may not be aiming for a mathematically oriented career. That’s fine—most people aren’t. But you can still do math. You probably already are doing math, even if you don’t call it that. Math is w ...more
This is a very practical, useful, and beautifully-written book on mathematics, particularly about mathematical thinking. I learnt about this book back in 2016 from the review of Bill Gates [https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/How-...]. Since then it had been sitting idly in my to-read list of 2017. However, I finally picked it up at the end of 17. But I wasn't paying enough "attention"! I believed in its worth but I felt I wasn't being committed enough to the contents of this book! Cause to enjoy a
...more
(Done - those of you who have already liked this may want to reread now!)
I like math. I want to be reminded of how cool it can be, and how relevant. But all the books like this, including this, that I've attempted to read have too much explication of the maths and not enough of what it actually means. For example, a chapter will start by explaining that c + a = a +c and just a paragraph later will expect us to know what a quadratic equation is, what it means, and how to solve it. What I'm saying ...more
I like math. I want to be reminded of how cool it can be, and how relevant. But all the books like this, including this, that I've attempted to read have too much explication of the maths and not enough of what it actually means. For example, a chapter will start by explaining that c + a = a +c and just a paragraph later will expect us to know what a quadratic equation is, what it means, and how to solve it. What I'm saying ...more
In the preface to Jordan Ellenberg's chunky maths book (441 pages before the notes in the version I read) we are introduced to a hypothetical student moaning about having to work through a series of definite integrals and complaining 'When am I going to use this?' What Ellenberg sets out do is to show how we use mathematics all the time - and how important it is to understand it if we are not to get the wrong idea about the world. We'll see how well he does.
It was very interesting to read this b ...more
It was very interesting to read this b ...more
I loved this book. Brilliant and funny as well as interesting, all mixed in with a touch of that feeling that you are actually learning something and furthering your pursuit of knowledge. 5 stars, great book recommendations throughout as well as a good aid for mathematical concept guidance. This is going in my foundation shelf and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in finding out many of the amazing actual world applications that math can be put to use for.
I might expound further ...more
I might expound further ...more
May 22, 2016
Devika
rated it
it was amazing
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
bill-gates-recommends
The most amazingly insightful yet simply written book on the importance of math in daily life, simply because math is present even in the most unassuming of places!
There are many things that I absolutely loved about the book. First, the discussion on how a Jewish mathematician Abraham Wald helped refine the strategy of placing armour on WW2 Planes with his counterintuitive yet eureka-esque approach. Second, analyses differ because of the way the math is involved i.e. linear vs. curve graph appr ...more
There are many things that I absolutely loved about the book. First, the discussion on how a Jewish mathematician Abraham Wald helped refine the strategy of placing armour on WW2 Planes with his counterintuitive yet eureka-esque approach. Second, analyses differ because of the way the math is involved i.e. linear vs. curve graph appr ...more
The press for this book seems a little overblown. It is decidedly not the "freakonomics of mathematics." Rather than hitting a plethora of topics, like Innumeracy and other popular books have done, Ellenberg homes in on just a few: linearity (consider: most trend lines are Laffer curves, not straight lines); inference (consider: an FBI algorithm determines that you are probably a terrorist; what are the odds that you are a terrorist? very very low; false positives almost always vastly outnumber
...more
The ultimate test for being total math-nerd.
I found out that I'm not one. ...more
I found out that I'm not one. ...more
Mar 30, 2017
Kylie Rae
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
nonfiction-math-cs,
nonfiction
I'm definitely someone very interested in math -- I have a BA in math and I'm pursuing a Master's in Analytics. However, this book got a bit too abstract even for me. I was hoping for more examples of applied mathematics, and while this book definitely had that, there were often theoretical/abstract/historical asides that seemed distracting. I also think there was too much information about mathematicians that wasn't needed; it just detracted from the examples and things got muddled. I would hav
...more
Have you ever heard the joke, "I'm an English Major. You do the math." or "There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who are good at math, and those who aren't."?
Both of those apply to me. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate math, that my mind draws blanks when it comes to anything relating to it. So why did I read this book? It was a book club selection that I wouldn't have picked up otherwise.
I respect what Eilenberg is trying to do, which is to make math more accessible. He succ ...more
Both of those apply to me. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate math, that my mind draws blanks when it comes to anything relating to it. So why did I read this book? It was a book club selection that I wouldn't have picked up otherwise.
I respect what Eilenberg is trying to do, which is to make math more accessible. He succ ...more
Nov 06, 2020
Jonathan Peto
rated it
really liked it
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
nonfiction,
math
Another reviewer wrote that this book does not really focus on “How Not to Be Wrong”. I completely disagree. There are five parts, named after a big idea, and each one explains how that idea and math relate to not being wrong…
Here are the five parts: Linearity, Inference, Expectation, Regression, and Existence.
Linearity, for example, includes and explains how even researchers screw up by treating data graphed as curves as straight lines… and more.
Among other things, Inference shows the significa ...more
Here are the five parts: Linearity, Inference, Expectation, Regression, and Existence.
Linearity, for example, includes and explains how even researchers screw up by treating data graphed as curves as straight lines… and more.
Among other things, Inference shows the significa ...more
5 stars. Title is a bit misleading. Was half expecting a strictly self-help style book prescribing different mathematical models for practical use. Ellenberg does that, but not without giving you the deep dive of the math world as it stands today, outlining its history, and presenting its heroes. He makes the elegant case of how deeply present math is in our everyday lives, and how important it is to do math well. Wish I had read this before taking any math class.
I would reread it just for its explanation of Bayes Law.
But on top of that Ellenberg is a good synthesizer. You get lots of entertaining anecdotes but they are in service of a higher point. It may take a while to get there but feels worth the wait.
I also like that he tries to debunk the “cult of the genius” and its corollary “the tortured genius”. (Ellenberg probably isn’t a fan of A Beautiful Mind and he tweeted shade at The Queen’s Gambit)
But on top of that Ellenberg is a good synthesizer. You get lots of entertaining anecdotes but they are in service of a higher point. It may take a while to get there but feels worth the wait.
I also like that he tries to debunk the “cult of the genius” and its corollary “the tortured genius”. (Ellenberg probably isn’t a fan of A Beautiful Mind and he tweeted shade at The Queen’s Gambit)
While math parts of this book were OK and sometimes even pretty good it has many issues.
We spend too much time on that lottery example and mostly on parts that are not related to math (why didn't the state stopped lottery? If it has nothing to do with differential equations or something like that why would we care?)
But the most noticeable problem is the one that you can find in many bad popular science books written in the US. Basically, it goes like this "Some math stuff or physics or whatever ...more
We spend too much time on that lottery example and mostly on parts that are not related to math (why didn't the state stopped lottery? If it has nothing to do with differential equations or something like that why would we care?)
But the most noticeable problem is the one that you can find in many bad popular science books written in the US. Basically, it goes like this "Some math stuff or physics or whatever ...more
I've wanted to just casually read books about mathematics since the first time I watched Good Will Hunting. I realize now that the movie is a little naively pretentious, but it's inspirational, at least in the first half. So here we are, I was inspired to pretentiously read a book about mathematics, and I ended up loving it! It focused heavily on statistics, but it also included various other topics. My favorite part was about prime numbers, which I naturally read out loud to my friends and fami
...more
It's pretty awesome trying to cram more books as the year is about to end and come across some excellent books like this one. I sincerely wish I had read it/the book had been born earlier.
Most of what Ellenberg discussed I have already familiarized myself with, unfortunately, and yet his writing is still so charming that I do not want to put the book down. He stays true to his words, writing simple yet "profound" ideas and their applications, not an easy task as I have so often observed books s ...more
Most of what Ellenberg discussed I have already familiarized myself with, unfortunately, and yet his writing is still so charming that I do not want to put the book down. He stays true to his words, writing simple yet "profound" ideas and their applications, not an easy task as I have so often observed books s ...more
This book is just wonderful; funny, insightful, incredibly smart. Jordan Ellenberg lays out the ways people attempt to use math to make things seem simpler than they are, and shows many instances where math is much simpler than you might think. Even the chapter titles are engaging and memorable, like "what to expect when you're expecting to win the lottery" or "Are you there, God? It's me, Bayesian inference." If you're not certain if it's the sort of thing you'd like, try reading his article fo
...more
This book is written by someone who knows his Math (being an IMO two time gold medalist (with perfect score) and two times Putnam fellow at Harvard. So one can be rest assured that he wouldn't deceive his reader when it comes to mathematical contents of the book.
The gist of the book: It explains how math can be incorporated into the day-to-day activities of common man in a conscious way so that even in the midst of uncertainty one can at least have a principled approach to face it head-on. Ther ...more
The gist of the book: It explains how math can be incorporated into the day-to-day activities of common man in a conscious way so that even in the midst of uncertainty one can at least have a principled approach to face it head-on. Ther ...more
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Science Book Club: How Not to Be Wrong | 2 | 27 | Apr 26, 2019 12:56AM | |
last book review | 1 | 8 | May 21, 2018 12:32PM | |
MTBoS Book Group!: How Not To Be Wrong | 2 | 19 | Jul 21, 2015 06:18PM | |
Science and Natur...: November: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking | 11 | 45 | Dec 16, 2014 08:37PM | |
Science and Natur...: August 2014: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking | 1 | 14 | Sep 15, 2014 02:16PM |
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“I think we need more math majors who don't become mathematicians. More math major doctors, more math major high school teachers, more math major CEOs, more math major senators. But we won't get there unless we dump the stereotype that math is only worthwhile for kid geniuses.”
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“A basic rule of mathematical life: if the universe hands you a hard problem, try to solve an easier one instead, and hope the simple version is close enough to the original problem that the universe doesn’t object.”
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