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136 Reviews
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD ANALYSIS, GREAT ANECDOTES ABOUT THE VALUE OF NUMERACY
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...
Published on April 3, 2004 by Denis Benchimol Minev

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99 of 110 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting book, but lacking focus
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...
Published on March 8, 2004 by Nadyne Richmond


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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD ANALYSIS, GREAT ANECDOTES ABOUT THE VALUE OF NUMERACY, April 3, 2004
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This review is from: Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars lifting the shackles of cultural innumeracy, February 15, 2001
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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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99 of 110 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting book, but lacking focus, March 8, 2004
By 
Nadyne Richmond (Mountain View, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (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
5.0 out of 5 stars a real classic, yet fun, June 7, 2000
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars changed my way of thinking!, September 28, 1999
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, fascinating, January 19, 2001
By A Customer
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing book about numbers and people, February 11, 2001
By 
Johnny Shapiro (Johannesburg, South Africa) - See all my reviews
I really enjoyed Innumeracy because of its content and because of the strange attitude the author exhibits to his target reader. While he gives the impression that he wrote this great little summary of basic maths for those with little grasp for numbers, one gets the impression that he has little concern for the feeble confidence of his would be disciples. Personally , I think it makes the book more entertaining as he casually tears pseudoscience apart , but not without pointing out grave concern for mankind given the amount of followers it has. The book itself is a livley course on practical mathematics and it is very interesting throughout. One particular anectode mentioned that i certainly wont forget is our inability to reject the hypothesis of immortality. A must read for both the numerate and inummerate although the latter will have to withstand a fair amount of not so sublte humiliation.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all that, February 15, 1999
By A Customer
This book was a dissapointment. I read the follow-up, Beyond Numeracy, first. That was a great book, but this one seemed very simplistic and had few mathematical insights for anyone who has enough mathematical knowledge to be interested in the book. There were some neat little facts like how long it would take to haul away Mt. Fuji with dump trucks, but it seemed like one long lecture about how no one understands probability. His other books are more interesting because they touch on so much more. He also whines too much, which is a shame because his sense of humor is his best weopon and he doesn't allow that to come out enough.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an innumerate reviewer speaks out..., February 3, 2001
Well, I am not a mathematician, nor even mathematically inclined, so mine won't be the review of a fanatic, nor even one based on comparison with other books that deal with the subject. Reading this book was a serious diversion for me, but perhaps the fact that I actually enjoyed it is tantamount to suggesting that the author's method will appeal to a large readership. He made the topic very interesting, and now I know what an algorithm is! I will also be able to think critically about the next statistic I am persuaded to swallow.
The book presents a very convincing case for the author's conclusion that "probability, like logic, is not just for mathematicians anymore. It permeates our lives." I found it fascinating how Paulos explained the complexities involved in the flipping of coins, or the rolling of dice... how that even asking the proverbial "Myrtle" out on a date is a foray into the world of probability. Even my rating of this book as being 4 out of a possible 5 stars is an example of how much we knowingly or unknowingly rely on numerical criteria in our daily lives. I guess I'm saying that, all things being EQUAL, and given a RANDOM sample, I'm ESTIMATING that CHANCES are that PROBABLY four out of five people will benefit greatly from this book. Give or take a star, 4/5ths of the time.....
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A math book? In a way ..., September 8, 2000
By 
Predictive Dreams. Parapsychology and ESP. Stock Market Scams. Numerology. Gambling. Chance Encounters. Winners vs Losers.
All of these subjects and more are covered in this eye-opening book. John Allen Paulos shows us that these 'mysteries' are easily solved mathematically; their *absence* would need explaining.
Going deeper than statistics and probabilities, many common misconceptions are explained away using logic, mathematics and common-sense. Very intelligent, often humorous and always right-on-the-money, Paulos' style is unforgettable.
Should you get this book? If you're a free-thinker and like to challenge your mind, the odds are in your favor.
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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos (Paperback - August 18, 2001)
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