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A Mathematician Plays the Market Paperback – 24 Jun 2004


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Frequently Bought Together

A Mathematician Plays the Market + A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of the Numbers in the Headlines (Penguin science) + Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (Penguin Press Science)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (24 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014101203X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141012032
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"'John Allen Paulos is the maths teacher I found twenty-five years too late' Sean French, Independent"

About the Author

John Allen Paulos is Professor of Mathematics at Temple University and Adjunct Professor of Journalism at Columbia University. He is also an author and public speaker. His writings include Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

'John Allen Paulos is the maths teacher I found twenty-five years too late' Sean French, Independent


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It was early 2000, the market was booming, and my investments in various index funds were doing well but not generating much excitement. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Spiceman on 18 July 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. I notice that some of the reviewers on the Amazon US site were a little critical - I suspect that they misunderstood what the book was about before they bought it.
Just to clarify, this book is not a 'Fail-safe Share Dealing' book. In fact, at no point does the book even suggest which strategies may be the best - it picks holes in them all.
Instead, the book provides an introduction to share trading in a light-hearted style. Starting with the psychology of investors, it moves on to share evaluation techniques like examining 'fundamentals'. At the end it moves on to the mathematical techniques used by some traders.
Mostly philosophical, it does contain some maths (probably anyone with A-level/1st year undergrad maths will have no trouble with it). A witty, insightful and entertaining book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mpgc on 29 May 2005
Format: Paperback
I was lured into this book by the well-written cover blurb, but sadly that was the best thing about the book. It promises to be an examination of the mathematics of markets, but the analysis is absurdly shallow. Paulos devotes pages to such topics as compound interest, which is presumably well understood by most school children - he never gets much deeper.
The book is actually reasonably entertaining, with some interesting little mathematical paradoxes and anecdotes, but overall it is poorly written and unfocused. At one point Paulos essentially admits he wrote the book to try and recoup his losses on the market. The feeling that the author is dashing off the book to make money is hard to shake.
The book might be a good introduction for someone completely new to the stock market, however, the extremely shallow treatment will frustrate anyone looking for more.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clarke Pitts on 19 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
This book seems to have dissappointed a few reviewers; I suspect that some expected a conclusion that helped them play the markets and others, a sophisticated algorithim to explain market behaviour. The book offers neither but is interesting and fun to read which is no mean feat when the subject matter is a rather dry topic.
There are many books about the stock market but few that I enjoyed as much.
I also recommend Richard Thaler on Behavioural Finance, Taleb on Hedging and Dot Con on the Internet bubble. Christopher Fildes is always worth a read too.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
If you would like an objective view of the stock market, are comfortable with math and enjoy a little irreverence in your investment reading, you will love this book. The material is easily accessible for anyone who finds algebra not too taxing. Professor Paulos minimizes the formulas for you by using anecdotes, simple brain teasers and practical examples instead.
What makes the book delightful is his self-effacing sense of humor. I cannot remember reading another book in which a writer is as candid and funny about his own failings as an investor. Only Andy Tobias comes anywhere close. The book's running joke is the professor's disastrous obsession with buying WorldCom stock using borrowed money before it became apparent that the company's reported earnings had more to do with wishful thinking than reality. It is this example that makes the book also insightful for the reader because it shows how easily our emotions and instincts can lead us astray, even when we understand as much about the stock market as Professor Paulos does.
I have read dozens of stock market books that have attempted to explain the "numbers" aspect of stock-market investing. None of them covered as much ground or did so as succinctly as this book does. I was very impressed by the depth of reading that this book reflects. Although it is not an academic book, the rigor is impressive.
The basic point is that the stock market is a lot more complicated than anyone can hope to understand, and likely to be more volatile than almost anyone will be comfortable with. Professor Paulos provides potential remedies for both (index investing, diversifying active portfolios, and using derivatives as insurance against large risks).
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 2 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
A complete waste of my time and money. The best thing about this book are its title and back cover. Those pushed me to buy it, but just about every page in between has nothing to do with what the book is supposed to be about.
The book and the back cover lead you to believe that this is a book about a mathematician that, obviously, uses complicated mathematical models (chaos theory, neural networks, nonlinear differential equations passed through my mind) to invest in the market. No such luck, Joe. This is the story of a guy that bought ONE (yes, one!!!) stock and lost his shirt on it. And wait, he didn't buy it because of the signal provided by any mathematical model. He did it, over and over, for all the same silly reasons that many investors bought technology stocks in the late '90s. The guy makes every possible silly mistake you can imagine. But the mistakes are so silly you can't even learn from them.
And one more thing. Even about that one stock, don't expect to learn anything about. My rough guess is that the book discusses this stock purchase in less than one page out of each 20. The silly story is told at the very beginning, and the stock is mentioned in a paragraph here and another there, but the book is not at all about that. Really, it was very disappointing. This guy discussing things that have to do with finance (and that are probably marginally interesting for completely unaware readers) but not at all about "playing the market," let alone with mathematical models. I didn't buy this book so this guy could explain to me the benefits of diversification, or how to calculate the risk of a two-stock portfolio. And yet, he discusses that and many similar issues, which have nothing to do with the topic of the book.
In short, stay way clear from this book. The issues discussed in it, are much better covered in many other books. And the issues it is supposed to discuss, it simply doesn't.
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