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Once Upon A Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic Of Stories
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Once Upon A Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic Of Stories

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  182 ratings  ·  14 reviews
What two things could be more different than numbers and stories? Numbers are abstract, certain, and eternal, but to most of us somewhat dry and bloodless. Good stories are full of life: they engage our emotions and have subtlety and nuance, but they lack rigor and the truths they tell are elusive and subject to debate. As ways of understanding the world around us, numbers ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 8th 1999 by Basic Books (first published 1998)
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Daniel Wright
Paulos introduces a number of new and insightful ways of thinking about the world, which will surely raise the consciousness of most readers. On the other hand, he isn't the most engaging writer in the world, and is almost intolerably smug, but never mind.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
My statistics teacher, knowing that I was more literary- than mathematically-minded, asked me to read this book for a final project. I can't thank her enough for bridging the gap between math and my interests. A good read indeed!
Feb 19, 2010 rated it liked it
This is my least favorite of the three Paulos books I have read; Innumeracy and Irreligion are both great. I was expecting something more interesting, since the comparisons and contrasts between mathematics and stories should have been fun to read.

I got the feeling that he wrote this too fast, not really spending a lot of time making sure what he was writing and what he was thinking made sense to the reader. At times it felt like I was immersed in his stream of consciousness, without any effort
Anthony Bello
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I was interested in this book because I heard the author on the radio show "In Our Time." He did not get many points across and I expected that his book would better illustrate his ideas. I was wrong.

As someone very interested in math, science, and stories, I thought that the book would look at all three in an interrelated manner. Again, I was wrong. The entire book reads like an episode of "Bullshit!" and, while this isn't bad in and of itself, I expected an episode of "In Our Time."

Having said
Stef Smulders
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ironically the author has chosen to use a rather "narrative" approach to bring his point across. As a result you sometimes feel a bit lost as to where the story is going. There are enough surprises and funny facts to keep you continuing reading however.
Bart Van Loon
I'm afraid Paulos was experimenting with one of the principles from his own book a bit too much: if you just assemble enough words, someone is bound to find a pattern and make sense of them.

I'm not that person however.

I enjoyed the premise of the book (bridging the gap between two intellectual cultures), and the first two chapters were actually very interesting. But the third one couldn't hold my attention, the fourth one didn't seem well researched at all and the fifth one was completely superf
Anthony Faber
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The author applies mathematics to storytelling, sort of. A lot of cute & counter-intuitive things here.
Mark Kloha
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
It's terrible. Don't waste your time with this book. The entire book has no logical flow to it. The writing is so disjointed that it's impossible to figure out what the author is talking about.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
I liked the title. But unfortunately, there is not that much in it. Certainly "the hidden mathematical logic of stories" is not revealed.
Davis Pan
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mathematica

One upon a number is an important book that attempts to bring understanding to the proliferation of everyday common discourse, especially that which fuses narrative and statistics to give an impression of authoritative truth. The author Paulus commands the pen in a highly stylistic manner that in some cases adds to confusion where a little more grounding in simple language would have benefited the clarity and meaning of critical passages. Literary style aside, this book is a fascinating excursio
Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lots of good insights about the relationship between statistics and stories but it wasn't as tightly written as his first book on the mathematics of humor. So, if you're expecting actual mathematical analyses of various plots or how character traits interact with each other to build an inner world, you won't be getting much of that here.
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had to give up on this book, not something I do often. I have been trying to read it for a couple of months now, and just can't get into it. I have read one other of John Paulos' books and found it enjoyable, so maybe I need to try this when I'm in a different frame of mind...
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: math-education
Decent book. It was ok as far as math books go.
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
Neat little book, a bit too basic and obvious (for me) at points though.
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“Partiendo del hecho geométrico y existencial de que nuestro ser está en el centro de nuestra historia y en la periferia de las historias de los demás, muchos llegamos al mismo tiempo a la algo extravagante conclusión de que nuestra vida abunda en coincidencias y sucesos notables, mientras que las de los demás es más bien típica.” 0 likes
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