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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper [Paperback]

John Allen Paulos
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper 3.5 out of 5 stars (2)
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Book Description

September 26, 1997 038548254X 978-0385482547
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 mathematics at all and demonstrates how a lack of mathematical knowledge can hinder our understanding of them.

Editorial Reviews Review

In this book the author of Innumeracy : Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences reveals the hidden mathematical angles in countless media stories. His real life perspective on the statistics we rely on and how they can mislead is for anyone interested in gaining a more accurate view of their world. The book is written with a humorous and knowledgeable style that makes it great reading. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Math professor Paulos's irreverent investigation of the often faulty use of statistics and fact in newspaper articles.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (September 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038548254X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385482547
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Quantification That's Fit to Print June 4, 2003
I found Professor Paulos's book, Innumeracy, to be a delightful expression of the key elements of mathematical ignorance that can be harmful, along with many new ways to see and think about the world around. You can imagine how much more pleased I was to find that A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper is an improvement over that valuable book. Every editor and newspaper writer should be required to read and apply this book before beginning their careers. Almost all those who love the news will find some new appreciation for how it could be better reported. Those who will benefit most are those with the least amount of background in math, logic and psychology. Although the subjects are often related to math, if you can multiple two numbers together using a calculator you will probably understand almost all of the sections. If you already know math well, this book will probably only provide amusement in isolated examples and you may not find it has enough new to really educate you. Most of the points are regularly treated in the mathematics literature.
In the introduction, Professor Paulos reveals a long and abiding love for newspapers. And he reads a lot of them. He subscribes to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times, skims the Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Daily News, and occasionally looks at USA Today (he likes weather maps in color on occasion), the Washington Post, the suburban Ambler Gazette, the Bar Harbor Times, the local paper of any city he is in, and the tabloids.
This knowledge is reflected in the book's structure. There are four sections, reflecting the typical four section format of many weekday papers.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An explanation of much of what is wrong November 22, 2000
Exploring once again the numerical ignorance of the American society,Paulos examines serious realities and the potentially harmful consequencesof the lack of a basic number sense in the general population. From supposed experts "explaining" the economy and the recent actions of the stock markets to sheer guesses given as hard facts, so much of our lives is affected by incorrect suppositions. It also points out how many jobs in our society are economically irrelevant in a very real sense.
Consider the section entitled "Darts Trounce the Pros: Luck and the Stock Market," where stocks were picked by throwing darts and the results compared to that of the "pros." Over a six-month period, the choices performed by the random process has a 42 percent gain as opposed to the Dow Jones rate of 8 percent and the experts rate of 2.2 percent. As time went on, the gains tended to move toward equality, but the reality is that those stocks picked by market watchers generally match the behavior of a random selection. In other words, money spent on "expert" stock advice is essentially wasted, with the obvious exception of insider trading.
Economic forecasts are also subjected to a similar investigation. In a convoluted world economy, where the behavior is essentially chaotic, it is impossible to predict what the future behavior will be. Recently, the executive and legislative branches of the U. S. government have been pounding each other over their separate long term predictions of the behavior of the U.S. economy. Such "knowledge" is being used in the attempt to balance the budget of the U.S. federal government.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Althought it took a few chapters to get in to the groove of the book, "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper" quickly drew my interest. Although some topics are repetitive, and at times you wonder what the point is, in essence the author does a good job at teaching us how to understand what we read. Broken down in short (2-3 page) chapters, this book is ideal for people who need something to read for 5-10 minutes - although it is just as rewarding in a longer-term reading session. The use of complex math is limited, and he explains things well - although some may have to re-read his mathematical and logical points to fully understand them. Overall, for people intrigued with logic, mathematics, or understanding how people perceive the world, it's a worthy read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but fragmented, like the newspaper February 13, 2001
This is a clever and useful book about the foibles in the media's use of statistics, with short primers on complexity, psychology, and probability theory -- and an occasional lapse into philosophizing that ends almost as soon as it begins. Ultimately this book, deliberately written so as to emulate the fragmented, unsustained format of the newspaper, suffers from this very cleverness: no issue is taken up long enough for Paulos to do it proper justice, very much like the newspaper (and television) reporting of which he is so rightly skeptical.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any instructor of the social sciences December 3, 1996
By A Customer
Paulos' warm and inviting style and his relationship with newspapers made me reminisce of the evenings I spent reading the "green pages" while visiting my grandparents in Milwaukee. I enjoyed his tour of scientific journalism and working through his math puzzlers. This book provides perfect examples for applying statistical knowledge in the real world. It's a wonderful tool for demonstrating the fruits of critical thinking. I especially like the short chapter format. Any stats instructor (or any social science instructor for that matter) will be glad they read it
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for the Lay Person
This book is a collection of very short essays describing the use of mathematics in a number of public contexts. Read more
Published 15 months ago by c2
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mathematician Reads a Newspaper
The book was well kept and of high quality, it just ended up I didn't need it after all.Great products though.
Published 21 months ago by Maria
4.0 out of 5 stars An old but still good book
This book has been written before the Internet era. So the author talks about the newspaper and other ways to receive news, but no Internet. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Cuello Felix
5.0 out of 5 stars Paulos Thoughts on Innumeracy in the Media
"Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary a qualification for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write." H.G. Read more
Published on January 27, 2012 by J. Kimbrough
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!
This really opened my eyes to how the main stream media makes news seem more sensational than it is. It will change the way you see the world. Read more
Published on December 28, 2011 by Saul Goode
5.0 out of 5 stars I am a happy camper
Received the used book in 3 days!
In great condition, just as described. You cannot
beat that for the price.
Published on July 5, 2011 by Jaime Garcia
4.0 out of 5 stars Foxy Numbers
Have read only a few pages as assigned to date- very good, so far.

As concerns vendor action, it was very good and book was received ahead of schedule and in very good... Read more
Published on September 24, 2010 by Harvey M. Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and instructive
A very well written book, both interesting and instructive. Full of common sense, the author provides a plethora of reports commonly found in almost any newspaper, and highlights... Read more
Published on May 12, 2009 by kychan
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming
Some interesting anecdotes don't save you from feeling a little cheated by this book which promises an entire mathematical world view but only delivers a few snippets.
Published on February 22, 2009 by TexasVC
3.0 out of 5 stars When did you last read the Newspaper?
"Don't believe everything you read in the papers" - more or less sums up what John Allen Paulos says in this Mathematician's eye-view of the printed news. Read more
Published on October 13, 2007 by Mathew Titus
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