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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of the Numbers in the Headlines (Penguin science) [Paperback]

John Allen Paulos
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Jan 1996 Penguin science

From crime figures to health scares, election polls to stock market forecasts, numbers make the news all the time. But are they accurate?

John Allen Paulos, travels through the pages of an average newspaper, revealing how mathematics is at the heart of the articles we read every day - even horoscopes and the sports pages - and how often they mislead us. By understanding simple concepts such as probability, chaos theory and game theory, you'll be able to see through faulty statistics, stock market forecasters and conspiracy theorists - and make the figures truly add up.


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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of the Numbers in the Headlines (Penguin science) + How to Lie with Statistics (Penguin Business)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (25 Jan 1996)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0140251812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140251814
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Mathematics is all around you. And it's a great defence against the sharks, cowboys and liars who want your vote, your money, or your life - as Paulos's latest book makes crystal clear (Ian Stewart, author of Does God Play Dice? )

About the Author

John Allen Paulos is professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is author of several books, including the bestseller Innumeracy which was a New York Times bestseller for 18 weeks and A Mathematician Plays the Market. He has appeared on many television and radio shows in the United States and has contributed articles to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the London Review of Books.

In 2003, Paulos won the American Association for the Advancement of Science award for promoting public understanding of science.


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Vilified as a "quota queen" and hailed as an activist superwoman, Lani Guinier probably became a greater news presence than she would have if President Clinton's nomination of her as assistant attorney general for civil rights had been approved by the Senate. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Quantification That's Fit to Print 13 Jun 2004
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I found Professor Paulos's book, Innumeracy, to be a delightful expression of the key elements of mathematical ignorance that can be harmful, along with many new ways to see and think about the world around. You can imagine how much more pleased I was to find that A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper is an improvement over that valuable book. Every editor and newspaper writer should be required to read and apply this book before beginning their careers. Almost all those who love the news will find some new appreciation for how it could be better reported. Those who will benefit most are those with the least amount of background in math, logic and psychology. Although the subjects are often related to math, if you can multiple two numbers together using a calculator you will probably understand almost all of the sections. If you already know math well, this book will probably only provide amusement in isolated examples and you may not find it has enough new to really educate you. Most of the points are regularly treated in the mathematics literature.
In the introduction, Professor Paulos reveals a long and abiding love for newspapers. And he reads a lot of them. He subscribes to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times, skims the Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Daily News, and occasionally looks at USA Today (he likes weather maps in color on occasion), the Washington Post, the suburban Ambler Gazette, the Bar Harbor Times, the local paper of any city he is in, and the tabloids.
This knowledge is reflected in the book's structure. There are four sections, reflecting the typical four section format of many weekday papers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 14 July 2003
Format:Paperback
A thought provoking book that is broken into byte size chunks that are easy to read and understand. Gives you a new insight into the newspapers that will leave you never trusting another article again - or at least with a healthy insight into why you shouldn't. You don't have to have an insight into maths for this to be enjoyable. Interesting articles include applying Chaos theory to the news and the use of measurement to distort meaning.
A worthy read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Showing you the maths in newspapers 24 May 2012
By Andrew Dalby VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is another of Paulos' books explaining maths in everyday situations. In Innumeracy he showed how ignorance of simple mathematical ideas can have a negative impact on society and here he looks at how this ignorance feeds into misunderstandings in newspapers. It covers the different sections of the paper including the politics and the local stories as well as polls, lists and the gossip sections. It shows how we are easily deceived by badly presented data and how rhetoric can play a serious role in understanding what should be quantitative factual problems.

Paulos' highlights the problem that there are often not clear right and wrong answers even in these "mathematical" cases as the way you frame the problem makes all the difference as well as the spectre of complexity. It is a clever book but it seems to lose momentum as it goes on and some sections seem much more a personal I want to talk about this than something directly relevant. There is also a more pessimistic feel than Innumeracy - more of a complaining tone, which is why I gave it a 4 and not a 5.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Quantification That's Fit to Print 25 Jun 2004
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I found Professor Paulos's book, Innumeracy, to be a delightful expression of the key elements of mathematical ignorance that can be harmful, along with many new ways to see and think about the world around. You can imagine how much more pleased I was to find that A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper is an improvement over that valuable book. Every editor and newspaper writer should be required to read and apply this book before beginning their careers. Almost all those who love the news will find some new appreciation for how it could be better reported. Those who will benefit most are those with the least amount of background in math, logic and psychology. Although the subjects are often related to math, if you can multiple two numbers together using a calculator you will probably understand almost all of the sections. If you already know math well, this book will probably only provide amusement in isolated examples and you may not find it has enough new to really educate you. Most of the points are regularly treated in the mathematics literature.
In the introduction, Professor Paulos reveals a long and abiding love for newspapers. And he reads a lot of them.
This knowledge is reflected in the book's structure. There are four sections, reflecting the typical four section format of many weekday papers. The four sections are:
(1) Politics, Economics and the Nation
(2) Local, Business and Social Issues
(3) Lifestyle, Spin and Soft News
(4) Science, Medicine and the Environment
Then, within each section, he uses a headline and subtitle for each subsection to capture the essence of a story type that we have all read lots of. Each subsection tends to run from 2-5 pages. As a result, this book can be read in 10 minute intervals very comfortably.
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