Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences
by John Allen Paulos

Hill and Wang(c)
YA-T, GA *


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Innumeracy? A book on how to be innumerate? No! This is a concise, personal, "gently mathematical" essay about the inadequacies of innumerate people--those with "a lack of numerical perspective, an exaggerated appreciation for meaningless coincidence, a credulous acceptance of pseudosciences, and an inability to recognize social trade-offs." Provided are many examples of problems and situations that are likely to cause problems to the innumerate. These examples, often drawn from probability and statistics, are succintly described without the aid of graphs, illustrations, or schematics. (Certainly concern about the innumerate should be extended to include concern about the ability to read graphs, charts, and tables.) The book lacks an index and a separate list of references. Partial references to source materials are given in the text, but many interesting as well as familiar items are used without citation. Overall, this is a well-written, well-organized book by an author whose passion will reinforce the prejudices of the numerate. It might make for interesting general reading, and its collection of examples may be used by teachers to supplement initial courses in probability and statistics.

--Reviewed by R. Clifton Bailey in Science Books and Films, 25/1 (September/October 1989), p. 25.