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Innumeracy8John Allen Paulos

"Innumeracy" and "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper"

We introduce two very interesting books by John Allen Paulos. He is Professor of Mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia. His fame is based on his writings and speaches. His main topic is the innumeracy of  people who are thought of as well-educated. He received the 2003 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

In his book "Innumeracy" he gives an example of a mathematical "illiterate" person, who is philosophizing about the differences in "continually" (Without cessation; unceasingly)  and "contuously" (at every point). This person - though linguistically higly sophisticated - is incapable of understanding the simplest things about probability. This is one of the basic questions of this splendid book, published in 1988:  Why do even well-educated people understand so little about mathematics? The book is dealing with mathematical illiteracy and its conwequences on personal and political decisions. He whows how this inability to cope with huge numbers and probabilities lead to errors in many areas. The blurb reads: "Sprinkling his discussion of numbers and probabilities with quirky stories and anecdotes, Paulos ranges freely over many aspects of modern life, from contested elections to sports stats, from stock scams and newspaper psychics to diet and medical claims, sex discrimination, insurance, lotteries, and drug testing. Readers of Innumeracy will be rewarded with scores of astonishing facts, a fistful of powerful ideas, and, most important, a clearer, more quantitative way of looking at their world."

A Mathematician Reads the NewspaperAnother book with a similiar topic by Paulos is "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper". He follows the same approach he used in his bestseller "Innumeracy" but uses new inspiring examples.
Cover text: "Employing the same fun-filled, user-friendly, and quirkily insightful approach that put Innumeracy on best-seller lists, Paulos now leads us through the pages of the daily newspaper, revealing the hidden mathematical angles of countless articles. From the Senate, the SATs, and sex to crime, celebrities, and cults, Paulos takes stories that may not seem to involve mathematics at all and demonstrates how mathematical naivete can put readers at a distinct disadvantage. Whether he's using chaos theory to puncture economic and environmental predictions, applying logic and self-reference to clarify the hazards of spin doctoring and news compression, or employing arithmetic and common sense to give us a novel perspective on greed and relationships, Paulos never fails to entertain and enlighten."