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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  810 ratings  ·  80 reviews
With the same user-friendly, quirky, and perceptive approach that made Innumeracy a bestseller, John Allen Paulos travels though the pages of the daily newspaper showing how math and numbers are a key element in many of the articles we read every day.  From the Senate, SATs, and sex, to crime, celebrities, and cults, he takes stories that may not seem to involve mathematic ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 26th 1997 by Anchor (first published April 6th 1995)
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3.60  · 
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 ·  810 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Jun 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A biochemist couldn't quite make it through this book, but close enough...The kind of book that eats like a banana, 3/4 is really the perfect amount, then you get full of it.
Conclusión Irrelevante
"Un matemático lee el periódico" es una crítica al tratamiento de la información en los periódicos. Pero una crítica que se aleja de las convenciones de esta clase de obras, más centradas en inquirir acerca de las relaciones de poder insertas en los diarios que en abordar otros asuntos. La obra de Paulos, por el contrario, deja a un lado esas cuestiones y ubica la discusión en el campo de batalla matemático, psicológico-cognitivo y filosófico con el fin de disolver las groseras meteduras de pata ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was written in 1996 and there were 5.8 billion people in the world. It is 2012 and now there are 7.8 billion people in the world. This book was cool, because the author went through all the sections of the newspaper starting with the politics which he claims does not really tell you shit about truth upon headlines to get you to buy the paper ending his explanations with sports and entertainment. People get fixated on words like Korupt, strikes, embezzlement, murder. When you divide the ...more
Este libro busca despertar la curiosidad en los consumidores de los medios de comunicación; muestra cómo la información (estadísticas, promedios, encuestas) aveces es presentada tendenciosamente con el fin de confundir o promocionar determinadas causas.

Es de interés general, aunque las personas más familiarizadas con las matemáticas pueden sacarle más provecho. Después de esta lectura se tiene más atención con la publicidad y sus métodos. Por ejemplo, en el empaque de la sal de Himalaya aparece
Charles Eliot
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
When my children were young we would watch nature programs on the television together, and I would teach then to ask "How do they know that?" I taught them to expect that the answer would often be a vivid example of how much science can discover or discern or deduce, even from the scantest of clues and via the most devious paths. I also taught them to expect that sometimes the answer would be "They don't know", or "They're guessing", or even "That's what they want you to think, but it isn't actu ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this work. The author proves to the reader that math is not about numbers but about thinking and logic. Covering a wide range of general examples, he brings home the concepts of probability, game theory (voting, poltical territory), chaos (economic forecasting, epidemics, markets), non-linearity, logic, and the complexity horizon. He also brings out the finer points regarding interpretation and use of analytical tools: precision (re: recipes), anchoring, checking for reasonabili ...more
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book, as I probably should have realized, is largely comprised of Paulos's vague musings. When he spends more than 2-3 pages on a topic, it gets insightful, but he does that far too seldom. There are plenty of good nuggets here, but the lazy format just doesn't hold up (too many sections of "Hey, here's an idea that I find moderately interesting, but I'm not going to bother digging into it."

I appreciate why it isn't especially math-y, but that limits some of his arguments. Had he dropped a
Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, though not as much as I enjoyed Paulos' earlier Innumeracy. He turns phrases beautifully and explains not-so-obvious mathematical phenomena very clearly. (For example, if you go up against a tennis player with whom you win 40 percent of your points, your chances of winning a match are only a paltry .05 percent - yes, one-twentieth of one percent. Sound crazy? The proof is on page 176 of the paperback edition.) My only complaint is that some of Paulos' ideas just ...more
Sarah Delacueva
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. I read a small exerpt from this book in a statistics class once and found it enjoyable. I thought it would be a fun and accessible look at how statistics are misused in the media. Unfortunately, the description fun and accessible does not apply to the book on the whole. Many sections of involved math well beyond my level of undestanding and others just seemed poorly organized to the point that I had no idea what point the author was making at any given time. Too bad.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous read - highly recommended

I have to say I really enjoy John Allen Paulo's style of writing. His wry observations and insights are wonderful to behold on paper.

The book is somehow timeless, it is as useful and observant now as it was when written.

An easy recommendation to make.
Joseph Carrabis
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have rarely enjoyed (or laughed out loud as much) a non-fiction book as much as I enjoyed A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. It was enjoyable both due to my background in mathematics and social psychology, and Paulos is a gifted storyteller. The best part is that you don't need any scientific training to appreciate it. A good read.
Moses Hetfield
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was interesting and fun to read. I was worried it would too dated (a book on current events written before I was born?!?), but Paulos writes more about general principles of things to notice in newspapers that remain relevant.
Some of his points are more insightful than others, but he does provide many cool examples of ways to apply mathematics to the way we read newspapers.
Sarah Rigg
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This was written in the mid-90s and the media landscape has changed SO much that some passages of this book read as rather quaint and obsolete. However, his analysis of what goes wrong with statistics, numbers, relative risks and so on in news stories still applies in the age of the internet. I'd love to see him release an updated version of this book for the age of online media.
Michael Norwitz
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Paulos examines and dissects the use and misuse of mathematics in newspaper stories. A lot of it is interesting although there's disappointingly few analysis of important political stories. I also wonder whether the level of general reportage nowadays renders some of the book old-fashioned.
dead letter office
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Much less interesting and worthwhile than Innumeracy. Pretty disappointing.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A nice collection of short musings by an expert on how not to be misled by popular news sources.
Anthony Faber
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Some of the content is covered in his other books, but he's amusing enough that it's worth reading.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Some stories are dated and/or dry - but others are timeless and illustrative.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
It is an interesting take on a mathematician reading a newspaper. Every story, or almost every story, in a newspaper has mathematical angle to it and the author brings that point to life on topics as varied as economy to those numerous - Top 10 lists.
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
51 percent of the vote results in 100 percent of the power

so, first off: paulos is not reading a specific newspaper or debunking specific articles. it's more like he's reading the general theory of newspapers, or is recalling a lifetime of said readership, and then tying those hazy memories and basic journalistic practices to some math concepts he's got right there in front of him.

in other words, the math is all very present. but if u want explicitly named errors in recent stories, ur gonna h
Aaron Wong
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Tapp
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
The book is about 200 pages but has over 50 chapters. So, each chapter reads sort of like a blog entry. It was published in 1994, before blogs, so it made him more money than simply blogging his thoughts now would. Each chapter are his thoughts after reading particular articles in the newspaper and introduce various mathematical theories and statistical concepts that would add some much-needed info to the articles.
The author loves the newspaper but is also critical of journalists and publishers.
Andy Cyca
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-ftw
La premisa del libro es muy buena: los muchos errores matemáticos (inocentes o no) que se leen en las noticias de cualquier periódico, desde los titulares nacionales e internacionales hasta las secciones de ocio y sociedad.

Al contrario de lo que puede sugerir el título, esto no es un curso de matemáticas ni un libro pensado para el especialista con un posgrado. Es para ese lector o lectora común y corriente que abre las hojas para informarse del mundo en el que vive. Es para detectar cómo los nú
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm a bit chary of criticizing a guy who wrote a book as useful as Innumeracy - Mathematical Illiteracy Ands Its Consequences. Perhaps the polite thing would be to say, just read his other book instead. Paulos attempts to discuss how a grasp of maths will allow you to understand better the world around you, such as it is presented in the newspaper. In reality, this seems to be merely an attempt to capitalize on the success of that earlier work. Is is 75 pages of meat with 125 pages of filler. I' ...more
Jim Razinha
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Paulos is a witty mathematician and makes excellent points in his analyses of newspapers focusing on the numbers, statistics, ignorance and misrepresentations. Arranged as newspaper content, with politics and current topics first, followed by local news, lifestyles, science, and sports, he writes short "articles" with composite made up headlines to draw you in; not any different than any newspaper. Published in 1995, the topics and references are dated, but the message is not.

I would be curious
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Applies basic mathematics to provide insights into the biases and misleading material in newspapers. Each chapter provides a bite-sized bit of knowledge about statistics and cognitive biases, though toward the end the information became repetitive. Especially liked the sections about gerrymandering, and tax rates. Also refreshing to see explanation of common cognitive biases.

Overall, a good reminder that the news is, for the most part, first about entertainment, and then about disseminating info
Roberto Palet
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: periodismo
Para el paroxístico estilo periodístico de nuestro país, la mayor enseñanza de este libro es la denuncia que hace de esa tan fructífera como nefasta alianza entre periodistas y abogados –sobre todo aquellos que representan a personas que afirman haber sufrido perjuicios por culpa de productos, servicios o políticas defectuosas.Porque si bien seguramente buena parte de esas denuncias son justificadas, lo que Allen critica, y sustenta en lógica matemática, es esa moraleja naif con que todos los di ...more
Alex Hasha
Mar 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: math-and-society
A good book. Paulos is funny and offers a treasure trove of examples from the contemporary news (the mid-90s when he was writing) that have "a legitimate mathematical component" as he puts it. This book can be viewed as a follow up to his earlier book "Innumeracy" that furthers his case that the publics inability to grapple basic mathematical arguments has substantial social consequences.

My only gripe is that, at times, he makes the typical mathematician's error of using a heavily oversimplified
Brian Sison
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
I loved Innumeracy and liked Beyond Numeracy, so I had high hopes for this book.

It was OK, but not spectacular. There was too much wordiness and not enough math. I was hoping for a more detailed analysis with various examples of how math, statistics, graphs, etc are used to mislead or misinform newspaper readers. Instead, this is a very cursory touch on various slightly math-related political and economic concerns.

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