This entertaining, enlightening, and instructive book from Paulos (Mathematics/ Temple Univ.; Mathematics and Humor, I Think...

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INNUMERACY: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

This entertaining, enlightening, and instructive book from Paulos (Mathematics/ Temple Univ.; Mathematics and Humor, I Think Therefore I Laugh) explores the widespread unfamiliarity with basic mathematical concepts; discussing probability theory, Paulos demonstrates the impact of this condition. With a spiky sense of humor and an impressive ability to make tough ideas accessible, Paulos delineates the ""innumeracy"" problem. Many, perhaps most, adults do not understand the basic tools of mathematics: big numbers intimidate people, and concepts thousands of years old are considered abstruse. Paulos demonstrates how probability theory works, and points to the sloppy thinking that results from misunderstanding it (""Jerry and I aren't going to Europe, what with all the terrorists""), including widespread acceptance of pseudoscience. Not only does Paulos make such concepts as conditional probability understandable to the layman, but his demonstrations include statements such as: ""To answer this, assume that Reagan and Thatcher are placed in a large burlap bag."" He proposes a logarithmic safety index for the media (like the Richter scale), so that the comparative dangers of, say, smoking and sky-diving may be immediately obvious, and he offers a concise introduction to the important and powerful conceptual tool, ""Prisoner's Dilemma."" A valiant (if quixotic) gesture against a particularly insidious ignorance--incisive, funny, and effective, delightful even to the innumerate.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 1988

ISBN: 0809058405

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988