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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Commonsense and Numbers
There are several books in publication today that strive to guide the general reader through mazes of number-based information; their main purpose is to impart to the general public the ability to ask the right questions and make sense of the information being presented. Some of these books are quite enjoyable while others can be a bit dry. I would place this one in the...
Published on January 23, 2009 by G. Poirier

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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but there are many better books on the subject
As a Statistics teacher, I jump when I see that a new book on this subject has come out. The study of how numbers are understood and misunderstood by the public can be very fascinating indeed. Unfortunately, this book ranks slightly below average in a crowded field. Here's why:

1) The book doesn't offer a whole lot of innovative thinking on the subject. Some...
Published on April 2, 2009 by Coach K


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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but there are many better books on the subject, April 2, 2009
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As a Statistics teacher, I jump when I see that a new book on this subject has come out. The study of how numbers are understood and misunderstood by the public can be very fascinating indeed. Unfortunately, this book ranks slightly below average in a crowded field. Here's why:

1) The book doesn't offer a whole lot of innovative thinking on the subject. Some examples and phraseology were new, and I especially enjoyed the chapter called "The Whole Elephant" (on the foolishness of quantitative goal setting by heads of companies), but much has been rehashed in other books in some form or another.
2) I wasn't entertained. The book lacked humor, and while not what I would outright call dry, it didn't exactly come alive either.
3) Most examples were from studies related to Great Britain. This may or may not bother some people.

On the flip side, it is a very quick read, with independent chapters that can be read in 10-15 minute bites. Not a bad bathroom book, I suppose.

Better books on the subject, or related subjects: The Drunkard's Walk, Innumeracy, Damned Lies and Statistics, 200% of Nothing, Predictably Irrational, Chances Are
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Commonsense and Numbers, January 23, 2009
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
There are several books in publication today that strive to guide the general reader through mazes of number-based information; their main purpose is to impart to the general public the ability to ask the right questions and make sense of the information being presented. Some of these books are quite enjoyable while others can be a bit dry. I would place this one in the former category. Having said that, it should be pointed out that the specific topics that are discussed vary greatly throughout the book; as a result, a given reader may find some chapters much more interesting than others. This was certainly true in my case; for example, I found the chapter on risk to be particularly fascinating. The writing style is clear, friendly, authoritative, accessible and engaging. While math/statistics buffs may be the ones to be most attracted to this book, it should be noted that it can be enjoyed by everyone, i.e., the authors' target audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book on what Numbers really mean...definitely a steal at this low price too!, February 6, 2010
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This review is from: The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and inLife (Hardcover)
This book is fantastic; Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot have really captured the essence of what Numbers are all about. Here are three of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Uncertainty is a fact of life. Numbers, often being precise, are sometimes used as if they overcame it. A vital principle to establish is that many numbers will be uncertain, and we should not hold that against them. Even 90 percent accuracy might imply more uncertainty than you would expect. The human lesson here is that since life is not certain, and since we know this from experience, we should not expect numbers to be any different. They can clarify uncertainty, if used carefully, but they cannot beat it."

"Being fallible does not make numbers useless, and the fact that most of the positives are false positives does not mean the test is no good. It has at least narrowed the odds, even if with nothing like 90 percent certainty. Those who are positive are still unlikely to have breast cancer, but they are a little more likely than before they were tested. Those who are negative are now even less likely to have it than before they were tested. So it is not that uncertainty means absolute ignorance, nor that the numbers offer certainty, rather that they can narrow the scope of our ignorance."

"We accuse statisticians of being overly reductive and turning the world into numbers, but statisticians know well enough how approximate and fallible their numbers are. It is the rest of us who perform the worst reductionism whenever we pretend the numbers give us excessive certainty. Any journalist who acts as if the range of uncertainty does not matter, and reports only one number in place of a spread of doubt, conspires in a foolish delusion for which no self-respecting statistician would ever fall."

I hope these quotes connote a general flavor of the skepticism that Blastland and Dilnot are conveying. I found the book terrific and think everyone should read it. I would also recommend reading the books On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not and Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions. They fall within this same general category and are equally as good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the numbers game, August 27, 2009
By 
This review is from: The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and inLife (Hardcover)
The authors had a long running radio program on the BBC
covering the same subject, how to understand numbers in
the news, in politics, and in life. The fact that "More
or Less" was popular for a long time is evidence that
their approach is attractive to many.

The show and the book might just appeal to those of us
that do not need it and complain that there are so many
that do need it, but I doubt it. This book is a fine
choice for anyone that realizes they need help understanding
the many numbers thrown at us daily. It would also be
useful for the many more that do not even realize they
could be less helpless when assaulted by a numerical attack.

There might be better books but most readers will get more
out of this volume than they will by searching for something
better. If you don't need the book and you have an opportunity
to rescue someone from innumeracy, use whatever you prefer,
but this one can do the job.

This is an American version of the book originally published
in Britain. Many of the examples are from Britain. At first,
this can seem like laziness, but the different measurement
units and different populations actually make the lessons
work better.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, well done, January 18, 2009
By 
normd (Silicon Valley) - See all my reviews
The authors have done us all a great favor - they've written a book that will help make media consumers less credulous. In the current news climate, making sense of numbers is more important than ever.

It is an enjoyable read as well.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the most interesting book on statistics, April 3, 2010
By 
This review is from: The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and inLife (Hardcover)
Usually, I love books that illustrate everyday uses of statistics in everyday life - especially those related to economics or politics.

The authors attempt to make some statistics concepts (causation, average/median/mode, risk) more understandable particularly when we hear them used in the media. In addition, the authors try to highlight when these concepts are misused or abused to illustrate a point. Both of these goals, while very worthwhile, are not attained in the most interesting manner.

Many of the examples are not described in the same memorable way as those included in such classics as Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In both of those books, the author more deeply examines the issues and uses memorable writing to explore the issues. While I would give the authors of this book credit for using statistics terms, the fact that the examples are less memorable is a big drawback.

If you walk away from this book concluding that the media and political leaders improperly use statistics, that's a good thing. Skepticism is healthy when it comes to numbers and "facts" (so called by those making the strong statements).

You'll enjoy this book if you want to understand some basic concepts as to how statistics can ineffectively "prove" statements. If you have at least some background in statistics, economics or political science, I'm not sure this book breaks new ground.
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5.0 out of 5 stars primer on how to look at numbers, June 14, 2014
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Using case studies found in the press, the book highlights means to read and understand if this number can be can trusted.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Numbers game,fantasyland and dilnot, June 6, 2014
Should be required reading for all consumers and users of information. Well written and well argued.
Best anti bias book I've read in ages
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great for teaching, February 14, 2013
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This review is from: The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and inLife (Hardcover)
I am reading this for ideas to add to my college-level statistics class. The students love when I can make dry statistics relevant to their lives. This book has lots of ideas that I've added to the class, and I'm not even done reading it yet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read and informative, November 22, 2011
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Everyday the media throws all sorts of numbers towards us, whether it be data from polls, clinical trials, or government budgets. "The Numbers Game" does a very good job of explaining and making those numbers accessible and understandable to the average person. It is a math book that is funny and entertaining to read, and encourages a healthy skepticism about statistics.

Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot do a good job on putting together chapters about certain techniques and expectations in, as they put it "bringing numbers down to earth." They make no qualms and are very capable of presenting a self-help guide in being able to analyze these numbers.

However, for most US readers, they may have some trouble understanding some of the examples that are used in the book. But this is not a deterrent. Overall, "The Numbers Game opens up a lot of perspective on ways that people may not have viewed the world previously, and how it is essential that the average person is able better understand and put into good use how to consume, interpret, and analyze data when presented with them.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone. It is a easy read, and the chapters are divided up accordingly in short 10-15 pages. In addition, it is a lot of fun to read and very informative.
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The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and inLife
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