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Numbers Guide: The Essentials of Business Numeracy, Fifth Edition (The Economist Series) Hardcover – April, 2003
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From the Publisher
A handy reference to stay on top of global economic trends. In today's global arena it is imperative that business people keep abreast of the economics of nations around the world. Every day features the release of a new barrage of updated economic indicators and figures that carry often hidden messages about the direction of segments of the economy. This pocket reference enables readers to quickly revisit the meaning and impact of late breaking economic news and to make better decisions based on the looming economic terrain.
From the Inside Flap
Crucial to business success, numerical methods are often viewed as too complex to understand, much less use. They are, in fact, far less complicated, able to be broken down into stepby-step instructions and processed by basic computing devices. This invaluable resource from the publishers of The Economist, the leading international business journal, simplifies and demystifies the numbers game, illustrating just how straightforwardand relatively easyit really is. Taking you clearly and concisely through numerous fundamental functions, both elementary and advanced, The Economist Numbers Guide arms you with the tools necessary to not only approach numbers with more confidence, but solve financial problems more easily, analyze information more accurately, and make decisions more effectively. Covering finance and investment, forecasting techniques, hypothesis testing, linear programming, and a host of other important topics, it shows you how to handle everything from figuring interest and quantifying risk to projecting inflation and evaluating investment opportunities. In addition to the basic mechanics of numerical techniques, the Guide takes a look at their practical applications, including their role in stock control, simulation, and project management. To help you sidestep potentially costly mistakes, it also highlights common errors to avoid, such as rounding incorrectly and bypassing time series selection. Along with sample calculations, concise definitions, and clear explanations, as well as more than 100 charts, graphs, and tables, The Economist Numbers Guide features an A-to-Z dictionary that encompasses key termsfrom autocorrelation to zero sum gameand provides useful reference material on such essentials as conversion factors and formulae for calculating areas and volumes. In-depth and easy-to-use, this is an indispensable reference for business and numbers success.
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Top customer reviews
Thanks economist for the excellent serious of books that I became one of its fans.
The answer?: an obsessive dedication to editorial rigor, nowhere better exemplified than in this 'style guide' for the numbers set. It doubles as a methodological guide, for it sets out near canonical equations and means for solving economic problems.
Nine chapters cover:
Finance and investment
Descriptive measures for interpretation and analysis
Tables and charts
Sampling and hypothesis testing
Incorporating judgments into decisions
Decision-making in action
Linear programming and networking
This guide should be required reading for everyone who manages from a numbers-intensive platform.
As you may have noticed, I really loved the older edition of The Economist Numbers Guide that I thankfully own. It is a great overview and introduction of mathematics as it relates to business. There are a lot of great things about that edition of this book. One of the things I admired about it was the range of topics covered, from interest rates and basic probability/statistics all the way up to Markov Chains, linear programming, and marginal analysis. It is hard to find the breadth of topics covered in that book elsewhere - whether all in one book or in any combination of books.
So I found it perplexing that this 5th edition dedacted some materials and topics covered in older editions. Gone are the interesting discussion of descriptive statistics for sets of data that do not easily conform to any of the standard probability distributions (e.g., where median is the best measure of the 'average' and substitutes must be used for the more common parameters such as standard deviation). I have a hard time finding anything coherent much less accessible on those topics elsewhere so it is a shame that they were left off of the 5th edition.
The only new material (not previously present) is a short blurb on public-key cryptography. While that topic is interesting to me and the limited discussion was illuminating and mathematically sound, it seemed a rather quixotic choice to put in when some interesting materials in previous editions were left off and new material that would have been more useful to the targeted audience have yet to be added.
What I mean by useful material that have yet to be added is that both the 1998 edition and this edition don't have some materials that I would think naturally ought to be added. E.g., the section on finance & investment mathematics is mostly devoted to various discussions on interest rate/time value of money & basic probability. I think adding material on CAPM (although CAPM Beta is defined in the book's very helpful glossary section), option/derivative pricing, financial portfolio optimization, and other topics in financial mathematics/engineering would make a great and natural addition to this book.
Some problems common to both the prior and current edition of this book are the occassional (relatively rare) typos. They are usually minor (although they are most annoyingly frequent in the section on time value of money / interest rates).
Another flaw in both the older and newer editions is that there are gaps in the expository material that don't make much sense. To be fair, this book is designed to be a brief intro/overview into a wide swathe of topics so it wouldn't be reasonable to expect that the author go into great detail on every topic. However, there are instances - e.g., the example on mixed strategies in game theory - where one or two additional sentences would help novices to understand (e.g., how did you get the the mixed strategy probabilities? author should have added a couple of more lines about how the system of equations are interrelated with one another when determining mixed strategies).
Having said all of that, let me reiterate that BOTH the old and the new edition of The Economist Numbers Guide is a wonderful resource for people interested in business mathematics. The sections on decision-making and forecasting are especially of value since they are so wonderfully explained here and a comparable set of explanations are hard to find elsewhere.
In future editions, I just hope that the author heeds my advice about bringing back some topics in older editions, correcting a few errors & lapses, and adding some material that would fit in with what has otherwise been an excellent series of books.