Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Review (#17 of 2008)

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos. The book is about 200 pages but has over 50 chapters. So, each chapter reads sort of like a blog entry. It was published in 1994, before blogs, so it made him more money than simply blogging his thoughts now would. Each chapter are his thoughts after reading particular articles in the newspaper and introduce various mathematical theories and statistical concepts that would add some much-needed info to the articles.
The author loves the newspaper but is also critical of journalists and publishers. His overall point is that we, as readers, should "Always be smart; seldom be certain." Knowledge of basic statistics help insulate us against having our decisions influenced by journalists that don't always ask the right questions and almost never reveal their biases.

One of the author's previous books (Innumeracy) was a bestseller about how/why American kids aren't getting proper mathematics training and what the consequences could be. He has a paragraph about that in this book, mentions that the way mathematics is taught in school today is equivalent to teaching literature solely by analyzing and focusing on punctuation. Thus, most students (like myself) never see the big picture and all the wonderful uses of mathematics beyond calculation and engineering.

I give the book 2.75 stars of 5. He mentions Chaos Theory a couple of times, which yet again tantalizes me to find a good book on the subject.

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