This is the book that made "innumeracy" a household word, at least in some households. Paulos admits that "at least part of the motivation for any book is anger, and this book is no exception. I'm distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems to indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens."
But that is not all that drives him. The difference between our pretensions and reality is absurd and humorous, and the numerate can see this better than those who don't speak math. "I think there's something of the divine in these feelings of our absurdity, and they should be cherished, not avoided."
Paulos is not entirely successful at balancing anger and absurdity, but he tries. His diatribes against astrology, bad math education, Freud, and willful ignorance are leavened with jokes, mathematical or the sort (he claims) favored by the numerate.
It remains to be seen if Innumeracy will indeed be able, as Hofstadter hoped, to "help launch a revolution in math education that would do for innumeracy what Sabin and Salk did for polio"--but many of the improvements Paulos suggested have come to pass within 10 years. Only time will tell if the generation raised on these new principles is more resistant to innumeracy--and need only worry about being incomputable. --Mary Ellen Curtin
He takes us a couple of steps closer to numeracy, and it is all in all an enlightening place to be. -- Christopher Lehman-Haupt, New York Times, 1989
Paulos makes numbers, probability, and statistics perform like so many trained seals for the reader's entertainment and enlightenment. -- Jon Van, Chicago Tribune, 1989
The innumerate will surely profit from this entertaining book. -- Morris Kline, New York Times Book Review, 1989
The world, as seen by Paulos, is less mysterious, yet somehow more elegant, less magical, yet more wonderful. So many apparently strange events do, in fact, become all the more magnificent in their not-so-fearful symmetry. -- Arthur Salm, San Diego Tribune, 1989
This admirable little book is only 135 pages long. You can read it in 2 hours. Chances are that they could be among the most enlightening and even profitable 120 minutes you ever spent. -- Henry Kisor, Cicago Sun-Times, 1989
This elegant survival manual is brief, witty, and full of practical applications. (Stefan Kanfer, Time Magazine, 1989)
REVIEW: Like carrying on a conversation with an engaging, articulate math whiz who easily shifts from the profound to the funny. -- Christopher Farrell, Business Week, 1989