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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper Paperback – 1 Apr 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books; Reprint edition (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038548254X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385482547
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,286,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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?) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun. 2004
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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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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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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Format: Paperback
The premise is that maths is not well understood, but that it’s all around us. Paulos' plan then is to educate us through a number of examples, which run to just a few pages each, which makes it an ideal book to dip into.

From the start, though, one is struck by a very heavy American bias. I think he tries to name drop by using examples of people he thinks his readers will know, but outside of the USA, names of the justices of the US supreme court are not commonly known pieces of trivia. That left this UK-based reader a little nonplussed, as it could have been made far more inclusive.

It's a real shame, particularly as I read through the first part, which was on the subject of politics, its relentless US-centricism detracted from some otherwise very good prose. Paulos doesn't really go into much mathematics here. His focus is more about rational thinking and how that can apply to things of a mathematical nature. So do not expect a particularly pedagogical text or worked examples. Numbers are fairly thin on the ground. As such, some who, like me, picked up the book expecting a book primarily about mathematics might be left wondering if the title wasn't a little misleading.

In truth, it's much more about general rationality than it is about maths. Given the expectations generated from the title, this inevitably left me rather disappointed. I know it was a follow up to an earlier book of his, entitled Innumeracy, which may have been closer to a better title for this work than the one it has.

The way the book is supposed to be structured is meant to roughly mirror a newspaper. So the front part of the book has more politics, the middle is more 'lifestyle' and there is a bit about sports (almost invariably US-based sports) towards the end.
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