by. John Allen Paulos. · Rating details · 3, ratings · reviews. Dozens of examples in innumeracy show us how it affects not only personal economics. Paulos (mathematics, Temple U.) examines many aspects of popular culture, from stock scams and newspaper psychics to diet and medical claims to. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos.

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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

His stated purpose is to appeal to innumerates with enjoyable and illuminating examples of everyday, as well as fanciful, uses of mathematics. Inumeracy enjoyed the book, and some Bankers Anonymous readers would as well.

All innumerates — the intended audience — will put the book down by the 3 rd paragraph of the first chapter. Paulos provides a valuable example of the stock market promoter who sends innu,eracy a newsletter to 32, potential customers, predicting a specific upward or downward movement in a stock.

At the end of 6 such random predictions, this promoter will have been right 6 times in a row to approximately astonished people. Just as coin tosses of a completely fair coin frequently run in hot streaks in seemingly improbable ways, many of the patterns we think we see in financial markets are more noise than signal.


Highly unlikely events become highly likely — given enough chances. I appreciate that Paulos repeats a great piece of wisdom my college uohn once told me: Real systems of thought, however powerful, are open to criticism from the outside.

No system of thought, however powerful, is without its weaknesses.

Book Review: Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos

A useful book — but who will read it? Paulos fills his book with examples of how we can be easily misled about numerical scale. I find this is true in personal finance — not understanding the incredible scalable power of compound interestfor example, or in public finance — not grasping the power of large numbers jobn it comes to the national debt.

Namely, how do you convince an audience of smart-but-non-finance folks that:. They should read my stuff to help them get started down the learning-finance path.

Review of a book on mathematical illiteracy | Bankers Anonymous

I fear that my personal finance writing attracts people already comfortable and fluent with financial topics, seeking confirmation of their relative sophistication.

Obviously I want both kinds, or rather all kinds, of readers. But my highest value-added proposition, in terms of a personal finance book, is for the non-expert reader. Reviewing Innumeracywhich, in my opinion, fails in its stated goal, reminds me of the challenge ahead.


Suggestions on this present conundrum, from all kinds of readers, are welcome! I think that in a book it would work to make the whole thing readable from the start, but to gradually introduce more difficult ideas through the book.

You help both groups and get both kinds innumerxcy reader.

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (John Allen

By the way, it would be great if there pwulos a tick box that let me request emails when my comments are answered. To attract those lacking in mathematical literacy, I should think the last thing you would want to do is to insult your intended audience by calling them innumerates.

innumeracg But that title, Innumeracy, is about as sexy as an algebraic formula. It often feels as though Paulos is calling anyone not mathematically literate an idiot.

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