From Publishers Weekly
The bad news is that, in an age of science, complex financial planning, and competing deficit forecasts to support competing stimulus packages, the average citizen needs math more than ever. The good news, according to this delightful and eye-opening numeracy primer, is that it's all sixth-grade math. Niederman, a mathematics Ph.D, and author of The Inner Game of Investing, and Boyum, a public policy consultant, assert that quantitative competence is mostly a matter of simple habits of mind, including: trust numerical data over anecdotal observations, but always question what the data are really saying; think in terms of probabilities rather than certainties; and make rough-and-ready estimates so your calculations don't go off track. With such rules of thumb and a little arithmetic, the authors illuminate basic ideas about probability, statistics and measuring and comparing numbers. Their lucid, light-handed, equation-free style is based on a skeptical examination of the dogmas of our modern culture of quantity, in which they take a close look at such numerical sacred cows as the batting average, the body-mass index and the wind-chill factor; clarify the math behind public policy nostrums like Social Security privatization and the flat tax; and reveal what they see as the statistical distortions of The Bible Code and the reasons for taking Zagat scores with a few grains of salt. They conclude with some recommendations on instilling quantitative common sense in students (restricting calculators in the classroom is job one). This engaging book is a great challenge to fuzzy math of all stripes.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Heir to John Allen Paulos (A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper
, 1995), this duo continues the noble cause of dispelling math phobia, especially its application in the vital life-skills department. Quantitative information pervades daily affairs, lending an illusion of precision to personal decisions, especially financial ones, that is often just that, illusory. Is lower-priced car A in fact cheaper to own than higher-priced car B? Rather than regard a number as a totem of truth, Niederman and Boyum campaign to instill a healthy skepticism, born of asking, "To what question is this number supposed to be the answer?" Ladling out humor throughout, the authors point out pitfalls in accepting numbers at face value, illustrating how the entity advancing the number often chooses a measurement favorable to itself, a practice notorious in public policy debate. Deception is not inherently intentional, the authors say, and usually stems from lousy quantitative reasoning rather than from dishonesty. Tilting toward an entertaining rather than a didactic presentation, Niederman and Boyum's wry asides and sports examples enliven their message. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved