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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences Paperback – August 18, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0809058402 ISBN-10: 0809058405 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Grade Level: 09 - 12
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: HOLT MCDOUGAL; 1 edition (August 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809058405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809058402
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Our society would be unimaginably different if the average person truly understood the ideas in this marvelous and important book." - Douglas Hofstadter

"[An] elegant ... Survival Manual ... Brief, witty and full of practical applications." - Stefan Kanfer, Time

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Customer Reviews

One thing is for certain when you are done reading this book: you WILL look at the world you live in differently.
Mathew Titus
An excellent reference on statistics is a book by John Allen Paulos entitled "Innumeracy" about "mathematical illiteracy" and its consequences.
Erik J. Heels
So, in short, the book ignite my interest again in mathematics...., it is a great book well written and enjoyable to read.
T SANTOSO

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Denis Benchimol Minev on April 3, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this short book, Paulos does an outstanding job of pointing out what lack of number intimacy can do to a person. The anecdotes are outstanding, especially the ones on large numbers and on probability. For example, he shows how one is fooled by probability: If we have 23 people in a room, what is the probability that two of them have the same birthday? 50%!! Very conterintuitive.
The author also tries to understand why it is almost considered acceptable for a person to admit that one is "bad with numbers", while it not being ok to be "bad with words". The realm of psychology is not his forte, but the ideas he points to are interesting.
Overall, this is an easy to read book, much easier even to one literate with numbers. I was done with it in 3 hours, and was left wanting more, so much so that I am now buying some more of his works. If they are half as good as Innumeracy, then they will be good enough.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Plumb on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago and believe it to be a classic that would enhance any mathematics study course by making it topical and a part of the reader/student's everyday environment. What mathematics teaching needs is humanising - this book could go some way towards doing this.
This short review follows a review I have just written for 'I Think Therefore I Laugh' - another of Mr Paulos' books. Because I rate 'Innumeracy' so highly I decided to look at Customer Reviews for it, and found some clashed with my own assessment.
Some reviewrs are offended by Mr Paulos' perceived attitude towards the innumerate - believing that he is condescending in an off-putting way. I don't see it that way except inasmuch as we are all innumerate at some level and have to learn to become more numerate - just as a golfer has to learn to read the cut of the green if they want to be a good putter. And numeracy skills will certainly enhance the way we see the world and respond to its mysteries as Mr Paulos shows so cleary.
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98 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Nadyne Richmond VINE VOICE on March 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
The problem that resulted in this book is far-reaching: the public simply doesn't understand mathematics. Statistics, ranging from a 10%-off sale to the sort found in opinion polls, are unfathomable to the general populace. Probability, especially in the context of gambling, is understood by only a scant handful of people. The list of misunderstood mathematics is nearly endless.
In the first few chapters of the book, Paulos describes various issues that the innumerate (that is, those who don't understand numbers and math) often have issues understanding. He describes the issue to a reasonable level of detail, then derives answers for them. Don't let the use of the word 'derive' scare you off: the answers are readable and readily understandable to a general audience. In some cases, if you're really rusty, you might need to read them a second time to grasp the solution.
Later chapters, however, are not written for the innumerate. They are attempts to convince the reader that mathematical education needs to be improved. I think that everyone agrees that education should be improved, but he offers suggestions that are impractical or nonsensical.
Ultimately, the problem of this book is a lack of focus. Paulos could have written either a book that tackles basic mathematical issues that the general public doesn't understand, or he could have written a book that describes the consequences of innumeracy. He tried to do both, and stuffed both topics into a single slim volume. In doing so, he shortchanges both audiences. The result is a book that is good, but does not fully address the needs of anyone.
If you find yourself uncomfortable with mathematics, pick up a copy of this book and read up to chapter five. If you are comfortable with mathematics and are looking for fodder to prove the point that improving mathematical knowledge at any level is productive, this book will not serve your purpose.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
After four years of college, I'm packing up and heading into the real world. One of the few books I'm keeping is Innumeracy. It was required reading when I was a freshman and again when I was a senior and I loved it even more the second time around. Few books lead you to an entirely new way of looking at the world and I, for one, would never think a math book would do that. It provided me with a more healthy way to think about chance, science, and even politics. A real classic that is fun to read. Paulos' wit makes the ride enjoyable all the way through.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
I had to read this for a class and groaned. But it is the only math book I've ever loved. It has attitude, is well-written, and changed my way of thinking about probability and the world. The wonderful examples don't depend on equations or formulas. Great book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Innumeracy was assigned in a psych class and I groaned inwardly. I was wrong. It is fun, smart, and has an attitude. I've never read a book like it and have found its ideas rattling around my head in all kinds of different situations. The importance of thinking in terms of probability is clearer to me now, and many of Paulos' clever examples help me think about a lot of issues that don't seem at all mathematical. The writing is killer witty too.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael JR Jose on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
'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 so indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens...' (p.134).
Writers generally put the motivation statement at the front of the book, but this occurs at the back. His anger does indeed fuel part of his need to write, and is one of the reasons why he succeeds but not fully. A moments reflection reveals that many books, of all types, are not motivated by anger at all. I am sure that in a calm moment he would appreciate the economy of the refutation 'NOT' appended to the first sentence of his statement. The question it raises is, can he justify his anger as righteous and thereby redeem it, like a mathematical cleansing of the temple? Or do we read the book with respect for his position and experience, but gingerly, lest we disturb a dog best left sleeping?
I like this book for the human-ness of its strengths and weaknesses. Published in 1988, it is fresh and contemporary, of course the math can never date, but his applications and examples have not dated either. As an experienced and passionate teacher of mathematics the professor has some valuable insights into the art and science of maths teaching. 'Math anxiety' and the 'extreme intellectual lethargy which affects a small but growing number of students' all concern him, as they do me. (My own small experiences in this area as a tutor and in the classroom echo his. He might also add the 'trained ability to concentrate' as a fundament of doing math - and perhaps all intellection.
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