This is the book that made "innumeracy" a household word, at least in some households. Paulos admits that "at least part of the motivation for any book is anger, and this book is no exception. I'm distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems to indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens".
But that is not all that drives him. The difference between our pretensions and reality is absurd and humorous, and the numerate can see this better than those who don't speak math. "I think there's something of the divine in these feelings of our absurdity, and they should be cherished, not avoided".
Paulos is not entirely successful at balancing anger and absurdity, but he tries. His diatribes against astrology, bad math education, Freud and willful ignorance are leavened with jokes, mathematical or the sort (he claims) favoured by the numerate.
It remains to be seen if Innumeracy will indeed be able, as Hofstadter hoped, to "help launch a revolution in math education that would do for innumeracy what Sabin and Salk did for polio"-- but many of the improvements Paulos suggested have come to pass within 10 years. Only time will tell if the generation raised on these new principles is more resistant to innumeracy--and need only worry about being incomputable. --Mary Ellen Curtin
John Allen Paulos is the maths teacher I found twenty-five years too late (Sean French Independent
would improve the quality of thinking of virtually anyone (Isaac Asimov
Paulos provides much in this book that is thought-provoking and informative. Markets can sucker even a maths professor. At least he can explain why (Financial Times
Paulos mixes high mathematics with the kind of stories that make you laugh (Daily Telegraph
Taught me more about the handling of numbers in real life than a thousand hours of maths teaching (Simon Jenkins The Times
This elegant little survival manual is brief, witty and full of practical applications (Stefan Kanfer Time