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How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
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How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  11,911 ratings  ·  1,162 reviews
The Freakonomics of matha 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
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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 29th 2014 by Penguin Press
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Dave I just finished it as an audiobook. I'd say that about 85% of it is just fine in audio. There were some parts where geometric diagrams would have been…moreI just finished it as an audiobook. I'd say that about 85% of it is just fine in audio. There were some parts where geometric diagrams would have been helpful and another part about elections wherein it was slightly difficult to follow the tables of numbers, but overall it's more theory than actual computations. Overall, you'll be fine in audio.

He actually states in the first few pages that the book isn't about doing math, but understanding and applying math. He tries to avoid complex computation since that's not his focus in the text.(less)
Nitesh Kanthaliya ln(10000) is not equal to 4 but log(10000)=4. ln the former case log has base as e, but in the latter case, log has base 10. In calculator, when you…moreln(10000) is not equal to 4 but log(10000)=4. ln the former case log has base as e, but in the latter case, log has base 10. In calculator, when you press ln, it takes base as e and hence the answer. Hope it clarifies.(less)

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Stuart
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 ...more
David
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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Will Once
Jun 07, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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Ben Babcock
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
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Ian
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Amit Mishra
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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WarpDrive
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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Maryanne
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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Peter Mcloughlin
Makes a good case for the real world of advantages of having a mathematical understanding and how to work with math concepts. The author argues that math is a very strong version of common sense reasoning which can keep a person sharp and savvy in a complex world.
Paul
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2014
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
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Ana
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.
kartik narayanan
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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Farhana
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
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
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
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
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Cheryl
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(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
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Jimmy Ele
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: foundation
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
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E
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Devika
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Kylie Burkot
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 ...more
Lisa
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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Brian Clegg
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Tam
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
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
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Clara Biesel
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sambasivan
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the pioneering books on mathematical thinking and on how you can use it in your daily lives. Brings out extremely beautiful arguments on relatively abstruse topics including probability, correlation and predictive analytics. A must read for all.
Arun
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
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.
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Eva Thieme
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My son, who is planning to major in math, gave me this book to read. Needless to say, I didn’t quite breeze through it as quickly as he did, but nevertheless greatly enjoyed it, even though I didn’t totally understand every last detail.

The reason it was so enjoyable: First, the subject matter. As promised, the book shows us how math touches everything we do, with a ton of real-world examples where one might not even suspect math played a role. We get to look at such varied topics as where on a
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Andrey S
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crap, non-fiction
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 state stopped lottery? If it has nothing to do with differential equations or something like that why would we care?)
But most noticeable is the one that you can find in many bad popular science books written in US. Basically it goes like this "Some math stuff or physics or whatever and then Hey!
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Nati S
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
This book is about how one can employ mathematics to make better sense of the world. It shows how probability theory and statistics can be used to think clearly and see events in a way that is more accurate and in conjunction with their inherent uncertainty. The book also discusses the inner workings of mathematics as to how different theories are built and how we know their veracity.

Although I have always been inclined towards mathematics, this book bettered my intuition, and gave me a few new
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Jafar
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some of the topics discussed here were also covered in Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, but this book goes beyond statistics and probability. I especially enjoyed some of the seemingly-irrelevant digressions that Ellenberg makes about math history.

It's unfortunate that we can't pass a law requiring everyone to read a book like this and demonstrate that they have a basic understanding of probability and randomness and number in general. It's one thing when general public is fooled by
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Rahul Jain
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had little idea I would be reading a book that so fluidly connects the concepts of Lottery ticket allotment, Infinite sums, Fano's geometry, Error Correcting codes, Renaissance painters to optimum Sphere packing in pomegranates into one grand narrative across maths, history, language (even fictional ones) and culture, with the prowess of a maths professor and talent of a writer.

It's an interesting and easy book, that flows like a well structured novel, hand illustrated at places; encompassing
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