If you know the difference between lies, damned lies, and statistics, give a copy of A.K. Dewdney's 200% of Nothing
to your friends to get them up to speed. If you don't know the difference, consider this funny, engaging little book a crash course in numeracy, the mathematical equivalent of literacy. Opening with two chapters on the importance of this dying talent, Dewdney (formerly Scientific American
's "Mathematical Recreations" writer) spooks the reader with real examples of government agencies, media outlets, and--of course--car salesmen deceiving their audiences with beguiling mathematical sleights of hand. It's all too easy for us to think we're immune to such tactics until we actually see them laid out for us in prose as clear and disarming as Dewdney's. From these tactics he delves more deeply into practical examples of particular problems that often catch us unaware. Gambling, advertisements using bizarre-but-normal-looking charts, and bad science all come in for thorough examinations, and the reader is amazed and occasionally angered at the shamelessness of the purveyors of misleading statistics. The book closes with two chapters designed to make readers "mathematically streetwise," with exercises to help you grasp ratios, very large and small numbers, and probabilities more intuitively. 200% of Nothing
inspires learning and makes it interesting--if you want to see through the fog of numbers surrounding politicians and advertisements, there's no better place to start. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Corporations, special-interest groups, government and the media deliberately misuse mathematics to sell products and propositions, charges Scientific American math columnist Dewdney. In an entertaining, stinging expose, he lashes advertisers, car salespeople, traffic safety officials, mutual fund-managers, lotteries, soft-drink manufacturers and others who pump up percentages and mangle ratios, charts and numerical logic. Aided by scores of examples. Dewdney punctures politicians who doctor figures to serve their purposes, reporters who distort statistics, alternative health practitioners who inflate their claimed cure rates. Happily, readers need only basic mathematics to follow his reasoning. After assessing the shocking "innumeracy" of today's students, Dewdney presents a brief self-defense course for readers who want to be mathematically streetwise. Illustrated.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.