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How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking Hardcover – 29 May 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (29 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594205221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205224
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 774,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The New York Times"
Lively prose .Refreshingly lucid while still remaining conceptually rigorous, this book lends insight into how mathematicians think and shows us how we can start to think like mathematicians as well.
Manil Suri, "The Washington Post"
Brilliantly engaging.... Ellenberg s talent for finding real-life situations that enshrine mathematical principles would be the envy of any math teacher. He presents these in fluid succession, like courses in a fine restaurant, taking care to make each insight shine through, unencumbered by jargon or notation. Part of the sheer intellectual joy of the book is watching the author leap nimbly from topic to topic, comparing slime molds to the Bush-Gore Florida vote, criminology to Beethoven s Ninth Symphony. The final effect is of one enormous mosaic unified by mathematics.
Mario Livio, "The Wall Street Journal"
Easy-to-follow, humorously presented.... This book will help you to avoid the pitfalls that result from not having the right tools. It will help you realize that mathematical reasoning permeates our lives that it can be, as Mr. Ellenberg writes, a kind of 'X-ray specs that reveal hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of the world.'
Evelyn Lamb, "Scientific American"
Witty, compelling, and just plain fun to read.... "How Not to Be Wrong" can help you explore your mathematical superpowers.
Laura Miller, Salon:
A poet-mathematician offers an empowering and entertaining primer for the age of Big Data.... A rewarding popular math book for just about anyone.
"Nature"
Mathematicians from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson to Steven Strogatz have celebrated the power of mathematics in life and the imagination. In this hugely enjoyable exploration of everyday maths as 'an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense', Jordan Ellenberg joins their ranks. Ellenberg, an academic and Slate s Do the Math columnist, explains key principles with erudite gusto whether poking holes in predictions of a US 'obesity apocalypse', or unpicking an attempt by psychologist B. F. Skinner to prove statistically that Shakespeare was a dud at alliteration.
"Bloomberg View"
If you have a vacation coming up in August and you re looking for a fun book to read that will also enlighten you, it would be hard to beat Jordan Ellenberg s "How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking."
"Times Higher Education"
A fresh application of complex mathematical thinking to commonplace events.... "How Not to Be Wrong" is beautifully written, holding the reader s attention throughout with well-chosen material, illuminating exposition, wit and helpful examples. I am reminded of the great writer of recreational mathematics, Martin Gardner: Ellenberg shares Gardner s remarkable ability to write clearly and entertainingly, bringing in deep mathematical ideas without the reader registering their difficulty.
"Kirkus Reviews"
The author avoids heavy jargon and relies on real-world anecdotes and basic equations and illustrations to communicate how even simple math is a powerful tool .[Ellenberg]writes that, at its core, math is a special thing and produces a feeling of understanding unattainable elsewhere: You feel you ve reached into the universe s guts and put your hand on the wire. Math is profound, and profoundly awesome, so we should use it well or risk being wrong .Witty and expansive, Ellenberg s math will leave readers informed, intrigued and armed with plenty of impressive conversation starters.
"Booklist"
Readers will indeed marvel at how often mathematics sheds unexpected light on economics (assessing the performance of investment advisors), public health (predicting the likely prevalence of obesity in 30 years), and politics (explaining why wealthy individuals vote Republican but affluent states go for Democrats). Relying on remarkably few technical formulas, Ellenberg writes with humor and verve as he repeatedly demonstrates that mathematics simply extends common sense. He manages to translate even the work of theoretical pioneers such as Cantor and Godel into the language of intelligent amateurs. The surprises that await readers include not only a discovery of the astonishing versatility of mathematical thinking but also a realization of its very real limits. Mathematics, as it turns out, simply cannot resolve the real-world ambiguities surrounding the Bush-Gore cliff-hanger of 2000, nor can it resolve the much larger question of God s existence. A bracing encounter with mathematics that matters.
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of "How the Mind Works"
The title of this wonderful book explains what it adds to the honorable genre of popular writing on mathematics. Like Lewis Carroll, George Gamow, and Martin Gardner before him, Jordan Ellenberg shows how mathematics can delight and stimulate the mind. But he also shows that mathematical thinking should be in the toolkit of every thoughtful person of everyone who wants to avoid fallacies, superstitions, and other ways of being wrong.
Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, and author, "The Joy of x"
With math as with anything else, there s smart, and then there s street smart. This book will help you be both. Fans of "Freakonomics" and "The Signal and the Noise" will love Ellenberg s surprising stories, snappy writing, and brilliant lessons in numerical savvy. "How Not to Be Wrong" is sharp, funny, and right.
John Allen Paulos, author of "Innumeracy" and "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper"
Through a powerful mathematical lens Jordan Ellenberg engagingly examines real-world issues ranging from the fetishizing of straight lines in the reporting of obesity to the game theory of missing flights, from the relevance to digestion of regression to the mean to the counter-intuitive Berkson s paradox, which may explain why handsome men don t seem to be as nice as not so handsome ones. The coverage is broad, but not shallow and the exposition is non-technical and sprightly.
Timothy Gowers:
Jordan Ellenberg is a top mathematician and a wonderful expositor, and the theme of his book is important and timely. "How Not to Be Wrong" is destined to be a classic.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of "Plato at the Googleplex"
Jordan Ellenberg promises to share ways of thinking that are both simple to grasp and profound in their implications, and he delivers in spades. These beautifully readable pages delight and enlighten in equal parts. Those who already love math will eat it up, and those who don t yet know how lovable math is are in for a most pleasurable surprise."
Danica McKellar, actress and bestselling author of "Math Doesn t Suck" and "Kiss My Math"
"Brilliant and fascinating! Ellenberg shows his readers how to magnify common sense using the tools usually only accessible to those who have studied higher mathematics. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in expanding their worldly savviness and math IQ!"

About the Author

Jordan Ellenberg is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has lectured around the world on his researchin number theory and delivered one of the plenaryaddresses at the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings, thelargest math conference in the world. His writing hasappeared in"Wired," "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," "The Boston Globe," and"The Believer," andhe has been featured on the"Today"show and NPR s"AllThings Considered." He writes a popular column called Dothe Math for"Slate.""


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book starts of with some inspiring insights into pure mathematics, then skips lightly through calculus before becoming bogged-down in probability and statistics. This last section forms the bulk of the text and is so reliant on framing maths in terms of US politics, US state lotteries, and a US-style obsession with the Judeo-Christian concept of a 'God' that I found it difficult to engage with. By the time we get to logical theory - the reason I was originally interested in the book - the author seems to have lost steam, and quickly skips on to his conclusion, again set against the backdrop of US politics and sport (baseball and American football). I couldn't face trudging through this last section, and felt so compelled to skip through it that I probably missed something inspirational.
He does present some interesting ideas around the notion of genius and the nature of democracy, but these are dealt with too swiftly to make the rest of the book worthwhile.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book, and there are sections of this which ought to be compulsory reading for many school maths students, journalists and anyone who wants to be able to tell when a politician is lying with statistics. It's well written and edited, although I think the latter tails off a bit meaning some of the later chapters are a bit rambling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting book showing how maths underpins many aspects of everyday life and how it can be used and abused by politicians, policy makers and the media. However, you need a fairly developed facility in mathematics to understand some of the author's worked-out numerical examples.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For me, it started with punch and vigor, and I thought "hello? am I in for a roller-coaster ride of interesting mathematics?". I needn't have gotten my hopes up. It moves in to some very weighty chapters to illustrate some points that could have been just as easily written on a single page. But of course, that wouldn't fill a book, so you end up with a lot of inane drivel.

It certainly isn't terrible. I just found myself skimming over large swathes of text thinking "yeah yeah yeah, where's the meat in this pie?".

Worth a read if you have the time to dig deep into the roots of what Jordan is trying to put forward. Overall though, as you might have guessed, I wont be re-reading it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ellenberg's book made me want to study mathematics again - a formidable achievement. I enjoyed every part of it, even down to the references and footnotes. The many references to literature, popular culture and history are particularly stimulating - not least the comparison of James T. Kirk and Bertrand Russell - something I never expected to see in print!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting read if you want engage with a little maths in your spare time. It's well written and not too complicated while still making you think about stuff you may have never wondered about before. Given the subject I think the author has done a great job.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written sideways look at mathematics appeals to those (like me) who didn't get on that well with it at school but who find it interesting nonetheless. The author makes interesting links with philosophy and politics. Perhaps a bit too much on lottery probability for me but overall enjoyed it a lot.
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Format: Hardcover
Some of this is fascinating and there are a few truly beautiful observations, but certain points are unnecessarily laboured and as other reviewers have said, it almost exculsively deals with probability and statistics.

Seems aimed at the kind of researchers investigating non-clear cut facts and how they interpret statistical data.
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